ISAM Global Experts Network (ISAM GEN): Expert Elicitation with Addiction Medicine Professionals
Secretaries: Hamed Ekhtiari (University of Minnesota, USA), Marc Potenza (Yale University, USA), Alex Baldacchino (St Andrews University, UK)
Steering Committee: Shalini Arunogiri (Monash University, Australia), Marica Ferri (EMCDDA, EU), Atul Ambekar (All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India), Sophia Achab (University of Geneva, Switzerland), Dario Gigena Parker (Ministerio de Salud de Córdoba, Argentina), Hamad Al Ghaferi (National Rehabilitation Center Abu Dhabi, UAE), Vladimir Poznyak (Switzerland), Susumu Higuchi (Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center, Japan), Christos Kouimtsidis (National Office for Addressing Drugs, Greece), Anja Bussee (UNODC), Cor de Jong (Radboud University, Netherlands), Afarin Rahimi-Movaghar (Iranian National Center for Addiction Studies, Iran), Geert Dom (University of Antwerp, Belgium), Susanna Galea Singer (St Andrews University, UK), Mustafa Al’Absi (University of Minnesota, USA), Min Zhao (Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, China) and Kathleen Brady (Medical University of South Carolina, USA).
Assistant Officers: Arshiya Sangchooli (protocol officer), Parnian Rafei (communication officer), Aldo Alberto Conti (data analytics officer), Hossein Mohaddes Ardabili (publication officer), Arash Khojasteh Zonoozi (data analytics officer), Jenna Butner (compliance officer), Mohsen Ebrahimi (data mining officer)
Technical Assistant: Marilyn Dorozio (ISAM Office, Canada)
Background and mission statement
Expert opinion constitutes an important source of information, especially when other types of data are scarce, the issues under discussion are complex and difficult to address with available data, or there is a need for rapid synthesis of information and intervention formulation. The dynamic and complex nature of substance use disorders and behavioral addictions necessitates the formation of global networks which can rapidly identify emerging challenges, synthesize cross-national information, and provide valid consensus opinions on areas of disagreement. To assess shifts in the patterns of addiction and national service provision to affected individuals, an ISAM working group conducted a survey of 189 experts in addiction sciences from 72 countries in 2020.
The ISAM Global Expert Network (ISAM-GEN) aims to build on this endeavor and develop a global expert infrastructure based around ISAM which can enable valid and reliable expert elicitation and consensus-building in the various sub-disciplines of addiction sciences.
In response to unprecedented challenged posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) in March 2020 delineated practical guidelines for addiction researchers and policymakers to support decision making during the pandemic (bcn.iums.ac.ir/article-1-1743-en.html). Almost one month after this announcement, in April 2020, ISAM conducted a rapid, multi-phasic expert survey of informants from across the globe to investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 on different aspects of addiction medicine during the pandemic; including changes in the patterns of drug and alcohol use, price alterations, virtual care, education and training qualities, and addiction treatment and harm reduction services for high-risk populations with substance use disorders. The study protocol was published in June 2020 (bcn.iums.ac.ir/article-1-1821-en.html). A total of 185 respondents from 77 countries participated in the first phase of this global survey:
Given the lack of multicentric addiction epidemiology studies in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ISAM global survey investigated the status of substance use during a 5-week period starting in April 4th, 2020. Respondents from 77 countries reported a significant decrease in drug supply (69.0%), and an increase in prices of the alcohol and drugs market (95.3%) in their countries. The findings also suggested an increase in the usage of alcohol (71.7%), cannabis (63.0%), prescription opioids (70.9%), and sedative/hypnotics (84.6%), while the use of amphetamines (59.7%), cocaine (67.5%), and opiates (58.2%) was reported to be decreasing. A majority of experts also reported increases in complications related to drug and alcohol use (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.646206/full). An overall rating of the general impact of the pandemic on people with substance use disorders is presented below:
Lastly, the results of this global expert survey suggested an alarming impact on substance use treatment and harm reduction services during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 40% of represented countries having experienced partial discontinuations of important harm-reduction services. Based on this survey, the directors of the ISAM global survey highlighted several issues which needed to be tackled more effectively (www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.639393/full).
The ISAM-GEN is currently working to further develop and validate the global expert survey infrastructure required for future global surveys. A webinar summarizing the experience of the prior ISAM global survey, important challenges in developing valid expert surveys, and future directions will be held in the autumn of 2021.
For any enquiries about the ISAM-GEN or past or current projects, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr Hamed Ekhtiari at email@example.com.
For those interested in the network, pick up on the opportunity, fill this form out and you will soon hear from us: https://docs.google.com/forms/