Tracking Trends in Drug Abuse

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25 Years of Progress

25 Years of Progress

NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) was established in 1976 to analyze and report on current patterns and developing trends in drug abuse. Using data ranging from wide-scale to street-level perspectives, this nationwide network of epidemiologists and researchers provides ongoing community-level public health surveillance of drug use.

"Over the years, CEWG has served as an early warning network for emerging drug abuse patterns, such as the introduction of crack cocaine in New York and Miami in the early 1980s, the use of high-purity heroin by a young, middle-class population in the Northeast in the early 1990s, and the use of "blunts"- marijuana rolled in cigar wrappers- which also began in the Northeast in the early 1990s," says Nicholas Kozel of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research. "CEWG information helps us identify the risks associated with these patterns and the populations most vulnerable to them."

More than 2 dozen CEWG researchers gather community-level drug use data from 21 major U.S. metropolitan areas as well as from State and Federal sources and from selected foreign countries. Some CEWG data are compiled from reports maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Semiannual NIDA-sponsored CEWG meetings provide a forum for discussion of current drug use data. Reports developed at each meeting are distributed widely.