Caetano honored for substance abuse research

By Lin Lofley

Dr. Raul Caetano, Dean of the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, has received the National Award of Excellence in Research by a Senior Investigator from the National Hispanic Science Network (NHSN).

Dr. Raul Caetano, Dean of the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions
Dr. Raul Caetano, Dean of the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions

Dr. Caetano, the Dean since 2006, was honored for three decades of research on substance abuse and its costs to society. The award was presented at NHSN’s 13th Annual International Conference, held recently in Bethesda, Md.

“The NHSN has, over the years, become heavily focused on looking at health disparities in our society,” Dr. Caetano said, “In the areas of substance abuse we see some of the greatest disparities.”

Over the past 30 years, he and colleagues – of all ethnicities – have documented the evolution of substance abuse issues in society. There are two major changes, he said.

“Epidemiological research has determined that substance abuse in the area of alcohol abuse is relatively stable, and in part the reason is that alcohol is legal,” he said. “Illicit drugs are a much greater problem, because if we’re discussing illicit drugs then we are dealing with a scenario in which there’s no regulatory system.”

Researchers have also noted a rising problem area in the form of opioid dependence, defined as the inability to stop taking painkilling drugs that are no longer medically prescribed.

“This problem has been exacerbated by our involvement in two wars, and by advances in trauma care,” Dr. Caetano said. “There are many people who become dependent on these drugs, and our systems to help those people move past their need for the opioids are limited in effectiveness.”

The theme of the NHSN’s 2013 conference was Shared Challenges and Opportunities for Achieving Health Equity with Ethnically Diverse Populations.

 

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