Responding to the Substance Use Crisis

Combating substance use, one community at a time

Synthetic opioids — drugs manufactured from chemicals rather than derived from plants — are the most dangerous form of opioid, accounting for more fatal overdoses than any other type of drug. But common drug tests generally fail to detect this ever-growing number of lethal synthetic drugs.

Nicholas Manicke is addressing this problem through a new drug testing system that can rapidly scan for hundreds of synthetic drugs. Manicke and his team will not only provide a new testing tool for health care settings, they are also developing a database showing where different types of synthetic drugs are used throughout the state. The research will support outreach, education, and prevention efforts, offering health care providers, lawmakers, and others a way to make faster, more informed decisions about treatment and prevention at the community level.

A gloved physician examining a tool used to determine the compounds making up several synthetic drugs.

Manicke is an associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and forensic and investigative sciences in IUPUI's School of Science. He is part of IU's Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge and also a 2021 IUPUI Trailblazer award recipient.

Going 4 Goals

Adolescence is a time of experimentation, when many teens are especially vulnerable to trying substances and developing substance use disorder. In the Indianapolis area, though, more than 160 young students are getting help to avoid that fate through Going 4 Goals, a school-based therapy program run by IUPUI researcher Tamika Zapolski.

The nine-week program partners with community schools, bringing together small groups of seventh-through-12-grade students with Zapolski and her team, who lead them through discussions and activities designed to build skills including coping with emotions, managing stress and communicating effectively in tense situations. The program is part of IU's Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge.

A presentation being given at Going 4 Goals, a school-based therapy program run by IUPUI.

Of the students enrolled in the program 85% have said it affected their schooling positively; 55% said it positively affected their grades; and more than half said the program resulted in both gaining new friends and losing some old ones who they saw as "bad influences."

I would do it again. It's honestly helpful. It shows that you can really go to somebody that cares about you.

Student participant in Going 4 Goals program

Connecting to community support

So far, more than 200 mothers and their babies have received help facing the effects of substance use disorder through IU’s CARE Plus program, in which community health workers build trusted relationships with mothers, encouraging healthy behaviors and providing educational materials and recovery resources designed to empower participants to lead healthier lives.

The CARE Plus program is managed by Debra Litzelman, a senior research scientist at Regenstrief Institute and D. Craig Brater Professor of Global Health Education at the IU School of Medicine, and is part of IU’s Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge.

Michelle, left, and community health worker LaTasha Timberlake

Fighting stigma

IU is fighting to dismantle one of the biggest barriers to substance use disorder treatment: stigma. More than 850 nurses and community members have enrolled in two free online courses through the university. The first course, "In This Together: Community Conversations to Reduce Stigma of Substance Use Disorder," fosters individual reflection, community discussion, and education around substance use issues and stigma. The second course, "Substance Use Disorders: An Introduction for Nurses and Healthcare Professionals," supports nurses in Indiana and throughout the country in increasing their understanding of best practices related to substance use disorder and addiction treatment.

Description of the video:

*Music Begins*

[Video: IU Grand Challenge Responding to the Addictions Crisis logo appears]

Ryan Russel Speaks in Voiceover: “I had, had nothing in my life grab me like opiates. Addiction crosses every”

[Video: Ryan and Shawna Russel sitting in church pews speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover.]

[Video: B-roll of Shawna, Ryan, and Reverend Charlo Burrell in a meeting with other group members. Ryan and Shawna sitting in church pews speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. Close-up b-roll of Charlo.]

Ryan Russel Speaks in Voiceover: “Addiction crosses every socio-economic, racial class, ethnic line that you could ever imagine. No matter where you are in life or who you are in life, whatever it may be could grab you before you know it.”

Jessica Hawn Speaks in voiceover: “I struggled with a little bit of postpartum depression when my daughter was born. I was put on nerve pills. it didn't take very long and I was taking them more than what I was supposed to and then eventually stronger pain pills, stronger pain pills, which led to heroin. I didn't just wake up one morning and say, okay I'm gonna ruin the rest of my life today.”

[Video: Jessica sitting in home speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. B-roll of Jessica doing dishes. Jessica sitting in home speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. B-roll of Jessica looking out window then looks into camera.]

Josh Graves Speaks in Voiceover: “It hurts when you know what you've been through and people still call you worthless. You're just a junkie, you're better off dead. I know that I've done a lot of bad things, but it also kept me away from wanting to try to better myself.”

[Video: B-roll of Josh driving, walking into Safe Haven Recovery Management Center. Josh talking to camera corresponding to voice over. B-roll of Josh in his office on his computer at Safe Haven.]

Brea Perry Speaks in Voiceover: “Stigma is defined as a deeply discrediting attribute. And the process of stigmatization is a social one where people who have a particular condition are devalued. Stigma is a major barrier to treatment seeking there's the shame and the secrecy which causes people to not seek treatment when they need it.”

[Video: Brea speaking to camera corresponding to voiceover. B-roll of Josh meeting with someone at Safe Haven.]

Reverend Charlo Burrell Speaks in Voiceover: “I've been sober since May the 15th of 1998. I'm a licensed addiction counselor also. Society labels alcoholics or addicts as these voodoo types of people it's the stigma that goes along with it. When I became educated about it, it took away from me that I was a failure. It's not one person, not one, that I can meet that I don't believe that can have a chance.”

[Video: B-roll of Charlo in his office at the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. B-roll of Charlo with others in a meeting in the church. Charlo sitting in church pews talking to camera corresponding to voiceover. B-roll of group members meeting in church.]

[Video: Indiana University logo fades in and then fades to black]

*Music ends*


The online courses are available to the public at no cost. They were developed by IU's Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge and are made possible through a grant from the Commission for Higher Education of the State of Indiana, CARES Mental Health Programs.

Two people embracing in front of the Safe Heaven Recovery Center sign.