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Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022

Louisiana Addiction Research Center

Changing Lives and Healing Community Through Research

Northwest Louisiana is no stranger to the methamphetamine (meth) epidemic. The Louisiana Drug Threat Assessment, provided in May 2021 by the National Drug Intelligence Center, reported that the misuse of meth is rising, primarily in north Louisiana. Counselors in some treatment centers say that meth is now the drug of choice in this area. Statistics from law enforcement also show increases in domestic violence and other crimes related to meth use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during a 12-month period ending in April 2021, which increased 28.5% from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before. While many of these deaths were due to opioid overdoses, another alarming statistic published in JAMA Psychiatry in September 2021 indicated that deaths from the use of meth were also rising at a dramatic pace. The authors of this study found that from 2015 to 2019, the number of overdose deaths involving meth rose from 5,526 to 15,489, a 180% increase.

Unfortunately, there is no FDAapproved treatment for Methamphetamine Use Disorder, and only a few options are available for Opioid Use Disorder. A Substance Use Disorder can be defined as the continued misuse of a drug (meth, heroin, alcohol) even though it is or will produce problems.

These data strongly suggest that the time is ripe for a Research Center focused on Substance Use Disorders, which is why the (LARC) at LSU Health Shreveport was established. Granted provisional approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Louisiana Board of Regents in December 2019, the LARC is on track to receive full approval in January 2022. The LARC is committed to increasing knowledge and advancing research related to Substance Use Disorders to create a better quality of life for the citizens of our area.

Although my lab has been investigating the role of stress in the misuse of drugs, primarily cocaine and meth, for over 35 years, the LARC opens up possibilities I once never dreamed possible. The LARC synchronizes state-of-the-art, collaborative and multidisciplinary research across basic and clinical departments, and among Centers of Excellence, at LSU Health Shreveport. Together, we are dedicated to developing a continuum of care in Louisiana that will leverage potential therapeutic models through these collaborations, ultimately resulting in advancing our care delivery abilities to improve outcomes in those who suffer from Substance Use Disorders.

The LARC made significant progress during provisional approval, despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown and its aftermath. Some of the significant accomplishments include:

• LARC researchers have teamed up with scientists and clinicians in the Center for Cardiovascular Diseases and Sciences (CCDS) at LSU Health Shreveport to better understand the mechanisms involved in meth-induced cardiovascular disease.

• LARC, with the CCDS, has established an agreement with the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse of Northwest Louisiana (CADA) to learn more about the effects of meth and other drugs on the cardiovascular system in individuals in treatment there for Substance Use Disorders.

• In a separate study, the LARC has partnered with the Center for Brain Health (CBH) to determine the effects of meth and other drugs on cognitive functioning and brain imaging in clients at CADA. A better understanding of the effects of meth and other drugs on the brain and the heart will guide the development of improved treatment and, ultimately, the prevention of the harmful physiological effects of these substances.

• In another study, the LARC is working with the Center for Emerging Viral Threats (CEVT) at LSUHS and the North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory to measure various drugs in wastewater across the region.

Although this is barely scratching the surface of all we have done, it is easy to see that the LARC is already well on its way.

Let me close with this: The use and misuse of a drug, even one as insidious as crystal meth, does not create a “bad” person. They may have made a bad choice, likely many bad choices, but that does not make them bad. At the LARC, our goal is to reduce the number of deaths from one of the most preventable causes, drug overdoses, through better education and developing therapies to address the forces underlying Substance Use Disorders. We will also provide avenues for people to stop misusing drugs, thereby reducing crime and bringing families back together. This may seem like a lofty goal, but it motivates me and the other outstanding scientists and clinical faculty members at LSU Health Shreveport involved in the LARC. Finally, what has driven me throughout my career, and what I tell anyone who asks, is that if I can help just one person, then it has all been worth it. The LARC will magnify this goal beyond my wildest dreams.

To learn more and for the latest updates on LARC, visit our website at www.lsuhs. edu/larc and follow us on Facebook at www. facebook.com/LSUHS.LARC.

Nicholas Goeders PhD, professor and chair, Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Neuroscience. executive director, Louisiana Addiction Research Center (LARC), LSU Health Shreveport.

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