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Monday May 23rd, 2011

Hospital Clínic heads the ALICE RAP project to redefine the concept of addiction and to define new European policies

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ALICE RAP is a new dynamic trans-disciplinary EU project which aims is to help policy makers “re-think and re-shape” current and future approaches to the huge human and economic costs of addictions and lifestyles in Europe. This project is supported by the Catalan Ministry of Health and coordinated from the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona by Dr. Antoni Gual, head of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona Addictions Unit. This Unit holds a broad range of expertise in the management of addictions and undertakes a number of research projects devoted to strengthening scientific and social knowledge on this topic, such as the European projects AMPHORA and ODHIN. This time, the initiative goes far beyond alcohol, and will investigate addiction in its broadest sense, including all types of substance problems and even internet gaming and gambling.

Over the next five years the ‘Addictions and Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe Reframing Addictions Project’ (ALICE RAP) will weave the work of over 100 scientists from 67 institutions in 25 countries into a integrated evidence base for informed policy action.  The research programme includes a wide range of different quantitative and qualitative scientific disciplines stretching across the humanities and social sciences and the biological and medical sciences.

ALICE RAP aims to critically examine and analyse currently fragmented research and strengthen scientific evidence to inform a new dynamic platform for public and political dialogue and debate on current and alternative approaches to addictions.

The project formally started 1st April 2011, and its kick-off meeting will take place in Cosmo Caixa, Barcelona, 23-27 May. ALICE RAP is a 10 million Euro project co-financed by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission, and coordinated by a team in the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona.

Expertise from scientific disciplines contributing to Alice Rap:

Addiction studies, anthropology, cognitive science, criminology, demography, economics, education, engineering, epidemiology, evolutionary biology, foresight management, history, journalism, law, mathematics, media, neurobiology, political science, psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, public health, public management, social marketing, social policy, social psychology, sociology, technology, and toxicology.

Our Approach

ALICE RAP – Reframing (understanding of addiction) and Redesigning (addiction policy) based on objective scientific evidence.

Policies governing addictive substances and behaviours need to balance individual freedom and social responsibility, while taking into account social, economic and ethical considerations. But scientific evidence points to the fact that the classification and legality of addictive substances has rarely been related to the relative harm that these substances can cause to individuals or to society. In fact, while there is a large amount of global scientific evidence to inform the development effective drug policy to improve public health, current policy in most societies takes little or limited account of this research.

ALICE RAP will work to change this by analysing the potential economic, health, and social consequences of new or alternative approaches to govern and manage addiction using foresight methodologies and expert working groups to identify more effective and efficient EU and national level policy options.

Areas of focus

The project is divided into seven areas and twenty one work packages (three in each area), making up an integrated multidisciplinary research strategy:

•    Area 1 describes ‘the ownership of addictions’ through a historical study of addiction over the ages, an analysis of public and private stakeholder views and image analyses of professional and citizenship views.

•    Area 2, ‘counting addictions’, studies how addictions are classified and defined, pulling together the enormous quantity of data on multiple addictions on their health, social and economic impact.

•    Area 3, ‘determinants of addiction’ uses a coordinated and cohesive social, economic and biological analysis to better understand the initiation, transition into problem use and transition into and out of dependence.

•    Area 4 analyses ‘the business of addiction’ through studies of revenues, profits and participants in legal and illegal trade, the impact of suppliers on addictive substance use and behaviours, and through analyses of webs of influence on policy responses.

•    Area 5 studies ‘Governance of addictions’, by describing the views and forces that determine the ways in which societies steer themselves to deal with different lifestyles, and by taking stock of present governance practices on established and emerging addictions. This area also considers future scenarios of addictions governance.

•    Area 6 approaches the idea of youth as customers, considering the impacts of new technologies on promoting and mitigating use, studying the interrelations of culture and biology, and identifying the features that promote resilience and nudge young people to reduce problematic use.

•    Area 7,’Coordination and Integration’, oversees the entire programme management from a partnership perspective, actively promoting synergies and improving interactions among the project’s partners, built on the idea that health and social challenges cannot be successfully overcome by actors working alone.

In addition, two specialist consultation groups input to the direction and work of the project as a whole:

•    A media and communications advisory group is consulted and oversee the provision of public information. Blogs and websites make all the findings generated in the project available in real-time, providing spaces for continuous public input.

•    A global science group, brings together renowned scientists from around the world, to embed the project in a global context and enable a global overview of the governance of addictions, providing relevant comment and input of other related initiatives, societal trends in relation to governance and public policy responses that are going on outside Europe.

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