Top of Page
Skip main navigation


"Experts say drug epidemics almost never burn out like this. Look at the current distress in vast swaths of the country over heroin and its synthetic cousin fentanyl. What happened in Florida, experts say, was the result of unprecedented coordination among local groups to fight flakka’s demand and — most importantly — the unusual willingness of the Chinese government to halt flakka’s production. Florida officials early on blamed overseas labs for supplying the drug flooding American shores."

To read more:
Maria E. Pagano, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University has recently joined ARSH as an Affiliate Faculty Member. Dr. Pagano has been a Principal Investigator, Co-Investigator, or Senior Statistical Analyst in over ten NIH-funded projects and has conducted research studies with young adult populations on alcohol, drug, and nicotine use, sexual risk behaviors, sexually transmitted infections, recidivism, and community-based interventions. Maria has worked in conjunction with the directors of ARSH as a data analyst and statistician, as well as through providing her expertise by collaborating on potential grant applications. We proudly welcome Maria to our team!

ARSH Senior Research Associate, Maria A. Levi-Minzi, has partnered with Broward House, a community agency providing services to those impacted or at risk for HIV, substance dependence, or mental health problems. Levi-Minzi will be working with Broward house over the next two years as a Project Evaluator, overseeing the process and outcomes of the MEGA (Men Educating and Gaining Awareness) project. The goal of this project is to provide intervention case management services and risk reduction plans to substance using, minority men having sex with men who are HIV positive or at risk for contracting HIV. In her role as Evaluator, Levi-Minzi will work with the MEGA program staff to refine the program model, and aid in the development of data collection protocols and procedures.

Dr. Kurtz presented at the third annual Conference of the Association for the Social Sciences and Humanities in HIV in Stellenbosch, South Africa. This conference seeks to bring together scholars and practitioners from a wide range of social science and humanities disciplines in order to contribute to new and creative ways to approaching the HIV epidemic. Dr. Kurtz presented data on how the growing demand for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can increase the likelihood of antiretroviral (ARV) diversion, particularly among marginalized groups. His presentation was featured in an article published by NAM (National AIDS Manual), an organization whose mission is to change lives by sharing information about HIV/AIDS. The article describing the presentation in detail can be found here:

ARSH Epidemiologist James Hall will be the featured presenter of a webinar presented by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Program Office (SAMH), in conjunction with the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association (FADAA). The free event, entitled, “Florida Frontline: Changing Patterns of Prescription Drug Abuse and Emerging Synthetic Drugs” will be held Wednesday March 18, 2015 from 1:30-3:30 (EST). Approximately 2.0 continuing education units / contact hours are provided for the webinar. To register for the event, please click the link below:

ARSH Director, Steven Kurtz and Associate Director, Mance Buttram presented data at the Global Addiction Annual Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In its first year outside of Europe, the conference addressed the cultural differences and global nature of addiction with session topics including designer club drugs, alcohol and prescription drug addiction, and opioid abuse. With the international nature of the Miami nightclub culture, and the prevalence of drug abuse multidrug users, Dr. Kurtz and Dr. Buttram presented data from ARSH’s ongoing study of young adult polydrug users in Miami’s nightclub scene. Research findings showed increased sexual risk behaviors among females and pointed toward severe mental health problems, history of victimization, and lack of social support as targets for interventions. In line with the goals of the conference, data presented from this study provided a unique perspective on addiction that can be applied to a broader global perspective.

Dr. Kurtz returned to China to participate in the International Workshop on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Research Skills Development, hosted at the Hangzhou Normal University School of Medicine. The workshop is one aspect of an ongoing effort of the USA-China AIDS Alliance Foundation and the Zhejiang Association of AIDS and STD Prevention and Control to increase physician training in the area of diagnosis and clinical are of HIV-infected patients. Dr. Kurtz presented on the topic of HIV prevention in the MSM population at both the Hangzhou workshop and an affiliated workshop in Louyang, Henan Province hosted by Chinese Center for Disease Control.

With the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping, two new designer drugs have appeared in the South Florida street market. Known by their street names, "Budder", or butane hash oil, and "Flakka", the latest version of bath salts, these new drugs are causing increasing concern among law enforcement and public health officials. The high levels of THC and volatile production process of Budder, along with the cheaper price point of Flakka compared to crystal meth, is creating a new challenge for local law enforcement. As crime labs in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties have reported growing numbers of cases involving Budder in recent months, law enforcement agencies are working to keep ahead of the ever-changing designer drug market. With the ubiquitous availability of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, ARSH epidemiologist, James Hall states that vaping may be the new main method of using these and other designer street drugs. To read more:

ARSH Epidemiologist, James Hall, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in drug abuse research at the Media Leader’s Luncheon hosted by the United Way of Broward County’s Commission on Substance Abuse and the South Florida Coalition Alliance. The South Florida Coalition Alliance is a four-county prevention team of professionals who share ideas and resources related to drug and alcohol prevention, and this was the fourth annual luncheon recognizing the value of media in understanding the impact of substance abuse on the south Florida community. Hall was recognized for his research contributions in understanding the scope and magnitude of substance abuse, especially in south Florida, and converting research about emerging drug abuse problems into community-based solutions.

ARSH Epidemiologist James Hall Cites Lack of Treatment as Challenge in Increasing Heroin Epidemic.

Florida, previously known as the “Oxy Express”, has made legislative and law enforcement initiatives that have drastically decreased the occurrence of prescription drug overdose. Unfortunately, the drastic cutback in the availability of prescription opioids has spawned an increase in the use of heroin. ARSH Epidemiologist, James Hall, spoke with Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly regarding the lacking treatment options available for those with histories of opioid substance abuse. He sites that though heroin numbers are relatively low, the rapid escalation of heroin use to epidemic levels is due to limited availability for treatment and limited availability of the opioid antagonist naloxone. Increasing treatment options will decrease the number of opioid abusers turning to heroin as a substitute.

ARSH is proud to announce that its current Cross-National Survey of Pharmaceutical Diversion, which is a part of the Research Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS®) System, will be expanding with a pilot study in the province of Ontario, Canada. The abuse and diversion of prescription opioid analgesics is a continued public health problem, not only in the United States, but also in neighboring Canada. The Canada pilot study will work with local Ontario law enforcement and regulatory agencies to understand the scope and magnitude of pharmaceutical diversion in the province. Particular attention will be given to First Nation communities where the prescription drug problem has been increasing in recent years. With low law enforcement representation, higher community rates of drug abuse and the transient populations that access the First Nation communities, these areas have been targets for high levels of drug diversion.

Dr. Kurtz presented at the International Symposium HIV & Emerging Infectious Diseases in Marseille, France. The 3-day symposium features scientific sessions related to HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention as well as hepatitis C and emerging infectious diseases such as H7N9 Flu. Dr. Kurtz presented on the implications of antiretroviral (ARV) diversion to street markets for the rollout of TasP and PrEP in the United States. His research revealed that the populations that would most benefit from PrEP suffer high rates of substance abuse and limited access to health care creating a scenario where many turn to street markets to purchase ARVs for treatment. Patient vulnerabilities result in decreased access to both prescribed PrEP and medical supervision which reduces the likelihood of achieving the adherence levels needed for treatment to be effective. Dr. Kurtz’s findings concluded that enhanced risk evaluation and mitigation strategies should be considered, including bottle labeling and additional USFDA oversight, and post-marketing surveillance strategies should be implemented to track diversion and misuse patterns, as well as policy and behavioral supports to decrease diversion and increase adherence.

ARSH Epidemiologist, James Hall, and ARSH Director, Dr. Hilary Surratt, presented recent drug diversion and abuse findings at the Research Abuse Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance System’s 8th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The RADARS System advisory board comprises experts in the field of drug abuse and provides research services and advice regarding drug surveillance data collection and interpretation, as well as scientific evaluation and recommendations to pharmaceutical companies, regulatory agencies, medical and community health officials, and the public. At the annual meeting Mr. Hall and Dr. Surratt presented their findings on the impact of state and local interventions on abuse and diversion of prescription medications in Florida.

In partnership with the University of Utretch in the Netherlands, ARSH has welcomed Serkan Boskan for a 6-month research fellowship. Mr. Boskan has a bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Pharmacy at the University of Utretch. Mr. Boskan’s research interests include prescription drug abuse and during his time with ARSH, he will be working with participants and data from, “The South Beach Study II: A Self-Assessment Intervention for Young Adult Polydrug Users” study. His research goals are to understand the nature of prescription drug abuse in the United States, particularly among the young adult demographic.

Mance Buttram, ARSH Associate Scientist, was invited to present at the Miami-Dade Ryan White Service Provider Forum January 28, 2014. In addition to communicating updates and news about the Ryan White Program, the quarterly forum also features recent local research related to HIV/AIDS. Mr. Buttram shared results from the Risk Reduction for Urban Substance-Using MSM study and spoke about specific risk and protective factors related to HIV transmission risk by residential zip code in South Florida.

With the tragic death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the resurgence of heroin use has been cast into the media spotlight. In recent years, the number of heroin users in the U.S. jumped almost 80% to 669,000 between 2007 and 2012. At a recent National Institute on Drug Abuse meeting, ARSH epidemiologist James Hall cited heroin use as the top emerging issue reported by 17 out of 20 nationwide researchers, providing evidence that the current epidemic is more widespread affecting not only urban centers, but also suburban and rural areas. Factors that are contributing to the new rise in heroin use include the use of heroin by prescription pain pill addicts, and the increase in heroin production from Mexican suppliers. Though the current epidemic rivals that of the 1970s, targeting the new users, who tend to be younger and more affluent, will require different strategies from both law enforcement and healthcare practitioners.

Florida has been cited as the center of the nation's prescription opioid epidemic due to the high number of pain clinics and lax prescribing regulations. After changes in the state legislature to better regulate pain clinics, and implementation of a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, independent quarterly surveillance data collected from law enforcement agencies in Florida, show documented reductions in the diversion of several prescription opioids including oxycodone, methadone and morphine. Though law enforcement data show a promising decrease in opioid diversion, ongoing surveillance is needed to further examine other channels of diversion, such as prescription theft, that would not be affected by legislative control.

Following up on his previous invitation, Dr. Kurtz has returned to China to present at the International Workshop on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Research Skills Development in Hangzhou, China. In partnership with the USA-China AIDS Alliance Foundation, Zhejiang Association of AIDS and STD Prevention and Control, The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Illinois at Chicago Fogarty International Training Programs, and the host University, Zhejiang Medical College, Dr. Kurtz joined international colleagues in a research skills development workshop targeted at current medical students and physicians in the Zhejiang province. The three-day workshop focused on the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS in China and how research strategies from the U.S. could be implemented to benefit target populations in China such as the MSM demographic.

ARSH is happy to announce the addition of Dr. Kiyomi Tsuyuki to its research team. Dr. Tsuyuki earned her Ph.D. in Community Health Sciences from UCLA, and has over 10 years of experience as a health demographer in the areas of HIV prevention and social health disparities. Dr. Tsuyuki’s experience incorporates geographically and culturally diverse populations, and her research has spanned areas of Los Angeles, Detroit, Mexico City, Bolivia, South Korea and Brazil. As a Postdoctoral Associate with ARSH, Dr. Tsuyuki will spearhead data analysis using Grounded Theory and mixed methods for the NIDA-funded studies, “Diversion of Antiretroviral Medications to Street Markets” and “Risk Reduction for Urban Substance Using MSM.” Given the ethnic and racial diversity of the South Florida population, Dr. Tsuyuki’s experience with culturally diverse populations makes her an excellent addition to the south Florida research landscape.

ARSH Epidemiologist James Hall has been appointed as a member of the Technical Expert Panel for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Community Early Warning and Monitoring System (C-EMS). With his years of experience in epidemiologic data evaluation, and his work with local drug abuse coalitions, Mr. Hall brings his industry expertise to the C-EMS panel. The goal of C-EMS is to create a web-based tool to access community level data from Federal data sets. This new “dashboard” will provide practitioners and policy makers increased access to identify needs for behavioral health services at the community level, and provide practitioners with the ability to target areas where services are most needed.

ARSH Director, Dr. Steven Kurtz was invited to present at the HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care workshop in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia China. The workshop featured over 100 healthcare practitioners and public health researchers sharing information on the latest trends in HIV research. Sponsored by the University of Illinois, Chicago AIDS International Training and Research Program, and the University of Nebraska Programs in HIV and AIDS Associated Diseases/ Malignancies, the workshop is part of an initiative to build long-term scientific capacities to address the AIDS Epidemic in China and other developing countries. Collaborating with the China CDC, and several other key stakeholders, the Hohhot workshop is part of an international partnership focusing on addressing the increasing need of clinical and behavioral science research to build and sustain research infrastructure in China and other target countries.

The Sun-Sentinel featured a new report from ARSH Epidemiologist James Hall which shows a 17 percent decrease in deaths related to prescription painkiller abuse according to data from the first half of 2012. Florida, previously known as the “Oxy Express” has taken strong legislative measures to curb prescription painkiller abuse by instituting a ban on the ability of doctors to dispense prescription opioids to patients in their office. Hall cites that this legislative ban, in conjunction with tougher regulations on pill mills, drug enforcement raids and stricter prescription writing guidelines, as the leading causes in the decrease in opioid related deaths. Hall further notes the decrease as the primary key change in drug trends for the first half of 2012.

ARSH is proud to announce the opening of its new Biscayne Boulevard field office. Located near Miami’s Midtown and Design Districts, the new office provides an easily accessible location for study participants. Based on participant feedback, the new location was added to provide current participants a convenient field office location served by public transportation and near major roadways. In addition, the new field office is easily accessible for a diverse range of Miami-Dade County residents living in close proximity. The new field office is easily accessible from downtown Miami, Historic Overtown, Miami Beach, and Little Havana and will facilitate recruitment for a range of ARSH studies and research endeavors.

Senior Research Associate, Maria A. Levi-Minzi, was awarded the NIDA Women and Sex/Gender Junior Investigator Travel Award for the June 15-20, 2013 meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) in San Diego, California. This award is designed to foster research on women and sex/gender differences in all areas of drug abuse research. Mrs. Levi-Minzi was granted this honor based on her recently accepted abstract entitled: "Sex trading, substance abuse, and mental health problems among indigent HIV positive women: Implications for HIV treatment, adherence, and diversion."

ARSH Director Dr. Hilary Surratt presented at the 5th World Congress for Women's Mental Health in Lima, Peru. The congress brought together over 800 researchers and health care professionals in the disciplines of psychiatry, psychology, community health, social work and nursing to discuss innovative developments and best practices to improve women's mental health. Sponsored by the International Association for Women's Mental Health, the congress is a now biennial multidisciplinary event to support the organization's mission of improving women's mental health throughout the world by expanding knowledge about Women's Mental Health, promoting gender-sensitive and autonomy-enhancing mental health services, and to enhance collaborations between societies. At the congress, Dr. Surratt presented her research of serious mental illness in HIV positive women.

ARSH Epidemiologist James Hall delivered a report on substance use in South Florida to the Community Epidemiology Work Group. In his presentation, Mr. Hall cites trends in drug use in South Florida's young adult population, which include increases in marijuana, ecstasy and heroin use, compared to national averages. The report also highlights the growing popularity of synthetic drugs, such as spice, a synthetic marijuana variety, and its use among Florida high school students. Compiling data from sources such as the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, Florida Department of Children and Families, the National Forensic Laboratories Information System and the Florida Poison Information Center, Mr. Hall was able to present a comprehensive look at the changing landscape of drug abuse and drug dependence in the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

ARSH Director Dr. Steven Kurtz and Co-Investigator Mance Buttram were invited to present at the 1st Multidisciplinary Resilience Research Center (MRRC) International Conference in Tel Hai, Israel. The conference brought together researchers from a variety of disciplines to discuss resilience in terms of theory, practice and research. Attendees included researchers from education, psychology, economics, gender studies, policy making and other academic areas to address issues related to individual, community and social resilience. In line with the MRRC mission, the conference provided a platform for researchers to exchange ideas and explore avenues for future research efforts to further address the multiple dimensions of resilience in diverse populations.

Stanford University, under contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and in cooperation with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has nominated ARSH Epidemiologist, James Hall, to serve on a community expert panel for their public health research efforts. The project will focus on developing community-level indicators of healthcare needs in the general population and for individuals with behavioral health needs through data acquired from emergency department visits. As a panel member, Mr. Hall will be an integral part of the two-level project providing guidance to help develop a precise definition of community and of future applications of the new indicators.

On November 7-9, ARSH hosted visitors from the Organization of American State’s Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). From the commission, members of the Inter-American Observatory on Drugs and faculty of the School of Psychology and Social Sciences at the Luis Amigo University Foundation in Medellin, Columbia visited ARSH to observe the ongoing collaboration that ARSH has established with the Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse. Of interest to the CICAD members were the methods used for gathering drug epidemiology data, and how the data is then used in prevention planning and information dissemination. Through their observations at ARSH, the members of CICAD hope to provide information so that nations of the Western Hemisphere can design and implement policies and programs to confront all dimensions of the drug phenomenon.

On October 23, 2012, Dr. Steven Kurtz, Director of Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities, was presented with Nova Southeastern University’s 2012 Provost’s Research and Scholarship Award. This award is presented to outstanding faculty researchers who have garnered high levels of grant sponsorship for their research activities within the university. In line with President Hanbury’s 2020 vision for the University of achieving excellence in teaching, research and learning, and supporting the university’s core values of scholarship and research, Dr. Kurtz has expanded the reach and influence of ARSH and Nova Southeastern University through grant-funded projects that target populations at high risk for HIV throughout the greater South Florida area.

ARSH recently celebrated National Recovery Month by participating in a free webinar which addressed substance use disorders. The free event, called “It Takes a Village: Addiction, Recovery, and Community” was broadcast from Nova Southeastern University and featured Jim Hall, Epidemiologist at ARSH as well as Raymond G. Ferrero III, the NSU-Health Professions Division Executive Director. The webinar addressed the latest data on South Florida’s drug and alcohol use trends, the impact of addiction on adult and adolescent brains, and addiction among special populations and in the workplace. Sponsors of the event included: Nova Southeastern University, The United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse, Sierra Tucson and The Aspen Institute for Behavioral Assessment (proud member of the CRC Health Group), and Addiction Recovery Legal Services.

Kimberly Durham, Psy.D., executive dean of NSU’s Institute for the Study of Human Service, Health and Justice, has announced the addition of epidemiologist James N. Hall to the Center for Applied Research on Substance Abuse and Health Disparities (ARSH).

A veteran in the field of the substance use/abuse, Hall served as the executive director of Up Front Drug Information and Education Center in Miami from 1982-2012. Moreover, as State representative for the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Community Epidemiology Work Group, he has spent the past 27 years tracking the patterns and trends of substance abuse in Florida. Hall was the recipient of the 2010 Path of Public Health Award of Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance Services from Florida International University and he is currently assisting a U.S. government project for the development of a substance abuse epidemiology work group on Iraq.

During his career, Hall has focused on converting research about emerging drug abuse problems into community based solutions. He plans to continue this mission while collaborating with ARSH investigators on other important projects. Hall’s work at the University is made possible by a community partnership with the United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse, The Miami Coalition, and the Florida Department of Children and Families.

This month, a team of scientists and delegates from ARSH and NSU will have a large presence at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC. The ARSH team will be presenting research from the "Understanding the Scope and Magnitude of Prescription Drug Diversion" and "Risk Reduction for Urban Substance Using MSM" studies. In addition, ARSH and NSU will host a booth to showcase additional HIV-related research and to recruit the next generation of HIV researchers and students to NSU. This year's conference is a significant event, as the conference is being hosted in the United States for the first time since the long-standing ban on entry into the U.S. for HIV-positive individuals was overturned by President Obama. Delegates, speakers, and researchers from around with the world will take part in the week-long conference, with over 20,000 people expected to attend.

In June 2012 two scientists from ARSH attended the International Association for Physicians in AIDS Care summit "Controlling the HIV Pandemic with Antiretrovirals." Specific strategies discussed during the meeting were treatment as prevention (TasP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Staying up-to-date on current HIV/AIDS related research is fundamental to fulfilling ARSH's mission. As ARSH Director Dr. Steven Kurtz explained, "ARSH stands in a unique position to contribute to cutting edge HIV prevention strategies such as TasP and PrEP by incorporating our expertise in social-behavioral research. As a result of this summit, we are aiming to foster future collaboration on combination approaches to prevention." Based on the summit discussions, ARSH scientists are currently examining data from two intervention studies regarding the potential efficacy of widespread introduction of PrEP in the community.

In 2011, ARSH received grant and contract awards totaling more than $2.8 million. This impressive total falls just behind Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center, College of Osteopathic Medicine, and College of Dental Medicine. Such an accomplishment is even more impressive considering ARSH has only been part of NSU for one year. With these funds, ARSH will continue its research with vulnerable populations across South Florida and contribute to Nova Southeastern University’s innovative research portfolio that creates real-world change for the benefit of the public. For more information please see Nova Southeastern University’s 2011 Research Brief or ARSH’s 2011 Annual Report. 2011 NSU Research Brief

Dr. Steven Kurtz was appointed to the review board for the joint International AIDS Society (IAS) – National Institute on Drug abuse (NIDA) fellowship program. The program consists of one junior scientist training award and one established researcher award, both at leading institutes excelling in research in the HIV-related drug use field. The program, established in 2009, is primarily targeted to researchers from middle and low income countries. The role of the review board is to evaluate and score the applications for the 2012 award cycle. This year’s fellowships will be awarded in conjunction with the XIX International AIDS conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington on July 22-27, 2012.

Dr. Steven Kurtz was invited to be the lead plenary speaker at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network’s 14th Annual Research Conference in Toronto. The conference showcased new and emerging HIV/AIDS research findings in basic and clinical science, epidemiology, socio-behavioral prevention, intervention and community-based research. Dr. Kurtz’s presentation was titled Resilience-based interventions for highly vulnerable men who have sex with men (MSM). Following the presentation, Senior Research Associate Mance Buttram joined Dr. Kurtz in a Q&A session with community leaders and researchers about their work. Mr. Buttram also presented his research titled The geography of risk factors and protective characteristics of HIV transmission and substance use in South Florida.

Return to top of page