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The Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research

School of Pharmacy

University of Pittsburgh

Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research


The Center for Education and Drug Abuse Research (CEDAR), funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (grant number 2 P50 DA05605) since 1989, has the overarching mission of delineating the origins and developmental pathways to substance use disorder (SUD). Biobehavioral processes and environmental factors are comprehensively assessed prior to first exposure to alcohol and drugs, and subsequently during the period of substance use behavior leading ultimately to a diagnosis of substance use disorder (SUD).  Employing a prospective paradigm enables clarifying the factors influencing the transition from no use to substance use to SUD.  From the practical perspective, upon completion of this longitudinal investigation, the individual risk for succumbing to SUD can be quantitatively specified across different stages of development. Youth who are at high risk for SUD can thus be accurately and objectively identified for prevention intervention.

CEDAR recruits proband fathers with and without SUD and studies their offspring from pre-drug use until at least age 30 at which time SUD will most likely be manifest if such is to occur.  A total of 800 families are recruited where there is at least one child, deemed the index subject, who is between 10-12 years of age.  Where available, the next younger sibling is also assessed when s/he reaches age 10.  In this manner, the quality of sibling relationship as a contributor to SUD outcome can be assessed in addition to the quality of parent-child relationship.

The children are studied on fifteen occasions using protocols that enable documenting change during development between childhood and adulthood. Using this schedule of evaluations, it is possible to chart the trajectory to good and poor outcomes and to identify the variables which may predict which individuals will transition across states (i.e. no drug use to drug use to SUD).  The assessment schedule is age 10-12, 12-14, 16, 19, and annually from ages 20 to 30.

CEDAR is divided into five cores (Administrative, Clinical, Computing and Information Systems, Methodology and Statistics, and Scientific) and four research modules (Genetics, Neurocognition, Developmental Psychopathology, and Family and Social Ecology).  Data is collected from all participating family members via interviews, paper and pencil questionnaires, computerized tasks, collection of body fluid specimens (saliva, urine, blood),   physical, dental and psychiatric examinations. CEDAR collects, extracts and archives genetic material from the family members. Cognitive tests measure neuropsychological functioning, social cognitive processes, and decision making style. Neurophysiological techniques are used to record EEG and event-related potentials (ERP’s) using surface scalp electrodes.  Teacher reports on child behavior are also collected.