Advancing Care

Through Science and Stories
Quyen Ngo, Advancing Care Quyen Ngo, PhD, leads a team focused on advancing progress in the field.
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Quyen Ngo, PhD, is executive director of the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The Butler Center takes a "cell-to-society" approach, studying both the biology of addiction and society-level factors that impact sustained recovery. 

Why is research into addiction important?

Addiction research is critical because stigma around substance use disorders has affected progress in treatment and understanding of the disease. Treatment for every other disease is based on research, addiction should be no different. Without scientific study, we cannot fully understand the journey of recovery and what will most help people and families in recovery.

The field has been plagued with unethical opportunists who prey on families when they are at their most vulnerable. It is critical to have quality research that can help individuals determine the most effective treatment for them.

How do research and data help tell a story?

Terms like data and research are often misrepresented to relegate people to numbers. In reality, data are patients' stories and voices, and research is the way we collect and look for meaning in those stories. Taking a bird's-eye view provides important insights about patterns of addiction such as what the next epidemic may be or which parts of our population are struggling the most. In contrast, deep dives with research can tell us how to improve treatment day-to-day, including what parts of treatment work best for whom. We need both kinds of information to understand the full picture.

What is the value of having a research center and treatment centers under one roof?

Hazelden Betty Ford, through the Butler Center for Research, has a well-established process, tested and refined over 40 years, to ensure that our clinical services continue to improve with emerging science. Having the two independent arms ensures an objective approach that benefits our patients and families directly.

What are some highlights of recent efforts?

Very little was known about how effective virtual services are for substance use treatment. We led an evaluation that has helped to build the case for virtual services, allowing us to continue refining treatment while increasing access to care for many who otherwise would not have received addiction treatment.

We also collaborate with industry leaders on research, including the Mayo Clinic, Spark Biomedical, Virginia Commonwealth University, Drexel University, University of Minnesota and Harvard/ Massachusetts General. 

How does philanthropy help advance research?

Philanthropy is essential in advancing science. In fact, true cutting-edge research is funded almost exclusively by philanthropic dollars and for-profit companies. Federal funding requires a foundation of preliminary work. This can be challenging for emerging ideas and technologies, as the preliminary work takes time and funding. Philanthropy often fills the gap between innovation and federal dollars. 

Federal research funding is limited in scope and time, making studies of lifelong recovery difficult to fund. Philanthropy addresses this dilemma, allowing long-term research projects to be completed.

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