IAS is currently constructing a Bar/Dispensary/Retailer Lab Space that will simulate various environments that exist in the real-world. This bar/dispensary/tobacco retailer space and will provide a laboratory and research space where faculty, researchers, and partner scientists from USC and other institutions can come together to conduct innovative and novel projects related to addiction science.
This laboratory space will be a groundbreaking catalyst for IAS faulty researchers to collaborate. Examples of such projects include (but are not limited to):
- The impact of social factors on alcohol consumption / tobacco use
- The influence of media and advertisement on purchasing and decision making
- The influences of types of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana products and consumption/use
- Social, behavioral environmental influences on consumption/use and purchasing of products
- Disseminate findings to community members, medical professionals, and policy makers
- Disseminate novel findings to influence local and national policy
- Test potential new pharmacological products
- Addiction Science Training Program – trains early career addiction research scientists to prepare them for a career in this field
Historically, when there is an attempt to change substance use patterns in a real-world setting, triggers are often too powerful and unpredictable causing individuals to be unprepared to combat these triggers. Often, when given instructions, guidance, medications, or treatments, they fail because those remedies do not translate in everyday life experiences. Instructions and guidance are not consistently present outside of a research setting and because of this these treatments often fail.
There is a need to test treatments, policies, and prevention strategies in the beginning using a well-controlled experiment or study to ensure there is a true causal effect on substance use before transitioning that treatment, policy, or prevention strategy into the real world where circumstances are far less controlled and more difficult to make rigorous conclusions.
Many times, treatments and prevention strategies are tested in an artificial setting and then fail in the real world. In those instances, a large amount of money and resources are spent on these large scale experiments based on findings from these artificial settings. The field needs intermediate studies that look at promising treatments in artificial settings, but where true causal effects are unclear for real world situations. Therefore, this lab space will simulate a realistic environment that would exist with social and environmental interactions and triggers but will still be able to test well controlled research questions that will examine a true causal effect of a treatment in a such a setting. This will allow researchers to have control, thus creating more generalizable and true results that translate to real life.
With regard to regulatory policies (i.e. packaging, labels, advertisements, taxes designed to deincentivize use, etc), the initial studies are hypothetical. There is no evidence that these policies will truly change purchasing activities once they are put in place. Before county, state, or even national roll out takes place, test are needed to find out if policies and regulations really will change behaviors.
With this bar dispensary/tobacco retailer space, we will be in a better place to take preliminary treatments, prevention strategies, and policies that are promising and test them in this intermediate setting. Those that are encouraging are the ones that we can move on to large scale, real-world studies. This will save on resources that can be dedicated to those treatments, policies, and prevention strategies that are more likely to succeed in the real world after being tested in a lab and show a causal effect on substance use.
Staff Stations & Meeting Rooms