The Social Research Center (SRC) was established in the mid 1960s to create a supportive research environment for the interdisciplinary work of behavioral scientists who subsequently documented the etiology and course of heroin addiction and the correlates and consequences of addictive behavior. More recently, the scientists at the SRC have conducted prevention and treatment research and pharmacological studies of heroin addiction. Four particularly notable achievements of the SRC have been the: 1) conclusive demonstration of the link between heroin addiction and crime (by examining self reported criminal activity over successive periods of addiction and non-addiction during the life time "careers" of heroin-addicted individuals); 2) determination of the impact of early developmental risk factors underlying vulnerability to addiction; 3) clarification of the drug-crime connection through the development of a typology of addiction that distinguished characterological from situational determinants of addiction-related behavior; and 4) implementation of the first controlled evaluation in the U.S. of the administration of methadone maintenance to formerly addicted prison inmates prior to their release to the community.
Based on these findings and on the extensive study of addicted individuals and their children, researchers at the SRC have devised and implemented numerous psychosocial drug abuse intervention programs. Investigators at the SRC are undertaking a diverse program of drug abuse prevention and intervention research including studies of the: 1) application of a multifaceted after-school approach within an alternative learning setting, designed to prevent both the initiation and escalation of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, risky sexual behaviors, and violence among high-risk urban African American youth; 2) differing strategies of early therapeutic engagement designed to encourage buprenorphine detoxification patients to continue in long-term drug free outpatient treatment; 3) effectiveness of methadone maintenance treatment to facilitate entry into community-based treatment programs of newly released prisoners with histories of pre-incarceration heroin addiction; 4) effectiveness of interim methadone maintenance treatment; 5) factors associated with methadone treatment entry and engagement of opioid users in an urban setting with a high prevalence of drug dependence; 6) integration of novel drug abuse treatments into community-based programs; 7) prevention of substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis in urban American Indians; and 8) historical and current cases of illicit drug use to formulate a theory of why and how such epidemics occur. Extramural funding for these research studies is obtained from a consortium of federal and state funding sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Nursing Research), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention), and Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems, Inc.
The research agenda at the SRC includes serious inquiry into the multifactorial issues related to health disparities. For example, one study is examining the extent to which specific risk and protective factors predict both perceptions of HIV risk and participation in risky sexual behaviors among high-risk African American youth. Another study is studying evidence based prevention programs for urban Native Americans at risk for substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. The diverse research at the SRC is also represented by studies of: 1) the linkage of community-based services with in-prison intensive care services involving individuals in the correctional system; 2) the effects of substance abuse counseling on buprenorphine treatment outcome; 3) computer assisted assessment techniques in psychosocial research; 4) kinship care of African American youth at risk; 5) the importance of cultural factors in responding to a large-scale community disaster; 6) the adjustment of children of addicted mothers under criminal justice system supervision who are remanded to correctional interventions, as alternatives to incarceration; and 7) the extent to which specific factors affect outcomes among buprenorphine and methadone maintenance treatment participants.