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.
Directed by Dr. Devin Banks, the REAL Collaborative’s goal is to conduct research that uses practical methods 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 minoritized people. This approach considers strategies for improving behavioral health and mitigating the consequences of substance use at all three levels of prevention:

  1. Primary prevention: understanding and preventing substance use and its immediate health and social consequences, usually among children and adolescents
  2. Secondary prevention: understanding the development of substance use disorders (AKA addictions) and preventing onset or severe courses of disorders, 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 aims to provide a space for research collaborators, students of all levels, community members, and non-academic partners to participate in education and mentorship in interdisciplinary topics spanning health disparities to psychosocial development while working together toward antiracist psychological science.

*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.