The Racial Equity in Addiction across the Lifespan Collaborative (REAL Lab) at the University of Missouri—St. Louis seeks to improve racial equity* in the research, treatment, and outcomes of substance use and behavioral health.
The REAL Lab conducts research examining the impact of racialization on substance use and behavioral health outcomes with the goal of improving access to culturally-appropriate prevention strategies for racialized individuals. We use interdisciplinary and mixed methods that integrate technology and community-engagement to improve the impact and relevance of research for people belonging to minoritized racial and ethnic groups—those who have traditionally been excluded from and overlooked in substance use and behavioral health research due to systemic racism.

The REAL Lab takes a lifespan approach to understanding and preventing substance use and related behavioral health consequences (e.g., traumatic stress, sexual behavior) among racialized people. This approach considers strategies for improving behavioral health and mitigating the consequences of substance use at all three levels of prevention:

  1. Primary: understanding and preventing substance use and its immediate health and social consequences, usually among children and adolescents
  2. Secondary: understanding the development of substance use disorders (AKA "addictions") and preventing onset or severe courses, usually during adolescence and young adulthood
  3. Tertiary prevention: reducing the burden of substance use disorder through treatment and harm reduction strategies to prevent social, functional, and health consequences, including overdose, typically among adults

The REAL Lab provides a space for research collaborators, community members, students of all levels, and professional partners to participate in education and mentorship in interdisciplinary topics spanning health disparities to psychosocial development while working together toward antiracist science and a more equitable society.


*What does the REAL Lab mean by racial equity? Equity suggests that people of all races are treated justly and impartially with access to the same resources and opportunities. Racial equity acknowledges the racial caste system that has systemically prevented just treatment and access for people belonging to racially minoritized groups. We are particularly interested in how to mitigate these racial inequities—from the individual level to the structural level—to prevent substance use consequences.