Drug-related research, covering a wide range of topics (including prevalence and patterns of substance use and related risk behaviours, prevention and other interventions, new psychoactive substances, law enforcement and policy evaluation) is explored in Italy by a network of researchers and institutions. Various research groups, coordinated by the Department for Anti-Drug Policies (DAP), collaborate to draft an annual report to the Italian parliament. Public organisations, such as the National Research Council, the National Statistical Office and the National Health Institute, as well as several ministries and partners from the private sector, usually implement studies for the report.
The Italian Action Plan recognises the importance of drug-related research, especially in the fields of neuroscience, neuroimaging, and behavioural, social and educational sciences. Additionally, the DAP has agreed with the Italian Ministry of Education and Research to strengthen policies to prevent substance use, particularly geared towards school-aged children.
Research priorities in Italy include (i) improving the strategies for diagnosis/early detection to reduce the gap between first drug use and first access to treatment; (ii) prioritising neuroscience and neuroimaging research to study brain damage related to drug use and the mechanisms of craving and self-control; and (iii) promoting new pharmacological treatments and vaccines and, at the same time, residential treatments and mental rehabilitation. The strategy for new psychoactive substances promotes diagnostic, clinical, toxicological and neuroscience research, as well as research on new online illegal marketing methods and prevention.