August 25, 2006

SIUC researchers to analyze meth treatments

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Researchers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are using a new grant to evaluate and improve treatment methods for methamphetamine addicts who are parents.

Shane Koch, associate professor and director of studies in addictions at the Rehabilitation Institute at SIUC, is leading a team of University researchers on the three-year project. SIUC is partnering with Franklin-Williamson Human Services Inc., the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and federal agencies Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and the Center on Substance Abuse Treatment.

The Rehabilitation Institute is part of SIUC's College of Education and Human Services.

The SIUC team will use its $300,000 share of the $1.5 million grant to help field addiction counselors gather and analyze data derived from their work with methamphetamine addicts. The goals are to find proven, data-supported methods to improve treatment for addicts while narrowing the traditional gap between counselors in the field and researchers, Koch said.

"Substance abuse treatment traditionally has had a lot of variability in the field," said Koch, who received his doctorate in rehabilitation from SIUC in 1999 and returned as a strategic faculty hire last summer. "Our goal is to find ways to implement an evidence-based practice in this rural substance abuse setting.

"We want to develop cutting-edge treatment for parents, thereby improving the quality of life for kids," Koch said. "When the parents are doing meth, there are all kinds of toxicity issues, abuse and neglect. So there are all kinds of ways this project can help individuals."

Koch, who specializes in program evaluation, will help counselors work with specialized software that collects and sorts data on addiction recovery progress. By analyzing various treatments, the researchers hope to pinpoint what approaches work best in this arena.

"We have the research role in the project," Koch said. "We want to make sure we are collecting data that demonstrate whether a treatment is effective."

Starting in October, the grant will pay for three doctoral students, a post-doctoral researcher, and other various expenses, Koch said. He also will work George Burruss, assistant professor at the Crime, Delinquency and Corrections Center at SIUC, on the project.

Southern Illinois has a well-documented meth problem, making it a prime area for such research. SIUC has a record of leading research in the areas of prevention and treatment of meth addiction, Koch said.

A technician at the SIUC Center for Environmental Health and Safety, for example, developed a dye that mixes with a key meth ingredient, anhydrous ammonia, thus discouraging its use by so-called meth "cooks" and users. Also, University personnel are participating in a pilot program at a Southern Illinois juvenile detention facility aimed at treating adolescent meth users, Koch said.

"The meth issue here is pretty dramatic," Koch said. "We have a very high rate of use here, somewhat due to access to specific chemicals, such as anhydrous ammonia, but also because of the economics and some cultural aspects."

Koch said meth, a seriously addictive and destructive substance, can damage nerve tissue. But he wants people to know despite that there are hopeful options for treatment.

"It's a cyclical thing and what happens often when the next drug comes along is we as a society sort of turn up the temperature, raise the alarm," Koch said. "That's good, because it gets us to mobilize resources, but it can also cause a lot of hopelessness among addicts. It causes consumers of the drug to maybe not seek treatment because they figure there's no use.

"The bright news about meth is that people are getting better. A piece of this research we're doing is how can we demonstrate meth addiction can be treated successfully. We're talking about helping the parents of small children. We don't want kids to be at risk or in danger.

"There's a lot of hope out there," he said.

Identifying, pursuing and obtaining new sources of external grant and contract funding and providing medical and social services to at-risk populations through service-learning and outreach activities are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.