Addiction Research Unit (ARU) (U.K.)

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The Addiction Research Unit of the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, was set up in 1967 on the Joint Maudsley Hospital/Institute of Psychiatry campus in Camberwell, South East London, England. Its funding has come from many different sources (principally the Medical Research Council), but its fundamental identity has always been that of a university center, which has close ties and valued links with a postgraduate psychiatric medical school (the Institute) and a teaching hospital (the Maudsley). Its present scientific staff number thirty, with the mix of psychiatrists, psychologists, statisticians, and social scientists reflecting the ARU's interdisciplinary commitment. The ARU's field of study embraces Tobacco as well as Alcohol and other drugs.

The ready access to hospital facilities has, over the years, greatly aided the ARU's ability to conduct clinical research. One line of investigation continuously developed from this base has, for example, concentrated on definition, description, measurement, and validation of the dependence-syndrome conceptin relation to both alcohol and opiates. The Smoking Section has done much to demonstrate that the cigarette habit is indeed nicotine dependence. A sustained effort has also been directed at the development of methods for assessing treatment efficacy through controlled trials. As regards both alcohol dependence and smoking, results have generally tended to support research in fairly simple, minimalist interventions, often delivered in the primary-care setting. Another line of research has focused on long-term follow-up studies and the determinants of "natural history and career."

If the above paragraph identifies some of the ARU's core activities, much else has also gone on. For example, the ARU, for a number of years, employed a professional historian, who did much to open up an understanding of the history of opiate use in Britain. Epidemiological research has at times been undertaken. As of the 1990s, the ARU has been developing a computerized method for handling interview texts. In the psychophysiological laboratories, studies of cue responsiveness are being conducted with patients and normal subjects. A new line of research is focusing on the relationship between the two axes of problems and dependence. The Smoking Section has contributed to studies on the impact of passive smoking.

Besides the research, a great deal of clinical and research training is being undertaken, and the ARU runs a full-time one-year course leading to a Master of Science (MSc) in clinical and public health aspects of addiction. The ARU enjoys the benefits of an extensive national and international network of friendships and professional contacts through its many former staff and students who today hold influential positions. There are particularly strong links with the developing world, and support has often been given by the ARU to the World Health Organization.

In April 1991, the ARU moved to a purpose-built office and laboratory accommodation on the same campus, and it became associated with the newly established National Addiction Centre. The ARU's Smoking Section has also been strengthened by involvement with the recently established Health Behaviour Research Unit, funded by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

Griffith Edwards

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Addiction Research Unit (ARU) (U.K.)

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