Advancing American Indian and Alaska Native substance abuse research: current science and future directions.
American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) have disproportionately high rates of substance abuse yet there is little empirical research addressing this significant public health problem. This paper is an introduction to a special issue that includes cutting edge science in this research area. We identify several areas that require consideration in this field and indicate how the papers in the special issue address these gaps. These overarching areas of need, which should be considered in any substantive research, include attention to heterogeneity within the population, research that has tangible health benefits, continued work on research methods and strategies, increased focus on strength based and community oriented approaches, and the need for strong research partnerships. The special issue marks a major step forward for AI/AN substance abuse research. However, articles also highlight where more work is need to improve public health in AI/AN communities by addressing identified gap areas.