Extremism and Substance Use Disorder, Criminal Background Checks, Vaccine Diplomacy: RAND Weekly Recap

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January 7, 2022

This week, we discuss parallels between extremism and substance use disorder; a better way to assess the risk of recidivism; how the United States could deliver on global vaccine diplomacy; modernizing America's nuclear Triad; how collaboration technologies could change demographic trends; and data on opioid prescribing trends.

A white supremacist protester is escorted away in handcuffs by a sheriff during a demonstration in Paris, Texas, July 21, 2009, photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Can Extremism Be Addictive?

Yesterday marked one year since supporters of then–President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol. This deadly day shined a light on the threat of violent extremism—especially violent white extremism—in the United States.

In a new paper, RAND researchers consider this threat through a public health lens, outlining parallels between violent extremism and substance use disorder. The goal is not to suggest that addiction to substances and extremism are one and the same or that one causes the other. Rather, they hope that assessing these parallels helps identify potential opportunities to prevent hate and radicalization.

According to the authors, approaches that incorporate community-centeredness, harm reduction, and radical forgiveness show promise in countering both substance use disorder and extremism. Of course, there must be consequences for behaviors that harm others. But it appears that too much punishment (or not enough support) “might feed the cycle of vengeful retribution that is critical in driving domestic extremism.”

A man shakes a woman's hand at a job fair in Clarksville, Tennessee, March 6, 2020, photo by Casey Williams/Clarksville Now

Two people shake hands at a job fair in Clarksville, Tennessee, March 6, 2020

Photo by Casey Williams/Clarksville Now

A New Way to Measure Recidivism Risk

What if criminal background checks were designed to assess an individual's level of risk at the time of the background check—rather than the time a person was last convicted or released from prison? A new RAND study proposes a risk-prediction model that does just that. This approach would reflect the reality that people with criminal convictions can, and usually do, change their ways.

COVAX program vaccines arrive at the Mons. Oscar Arnulfo Romero International Airport, in San Luis Talpa, El Salvador, March 11, 2021, photo by Jose Cabezas/Reuters

COVAX program vaccines arrive at the airport in San Luis Talpa, El Salvador, March 11, 2021

Photo by Jose Cabezas/Reuters

Global Vaccine Diplomacy: It's Not Too Late for the U.S. to Lead the Way

Once COVID-19 vaccines were developed, not enough was done to ensure that the global population got vaccinated. The United States can still meet this challenge, says RAND's Krishna Kumar, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives and ending the pandemic for good. Such an effort would require providing logistical support, easing export restrictions on vaccine components, and sharing strategies to address vaccine hesitancy.

The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, February 5, 2020, photo by SrA Clayton Wear/U.S. Air Force

The launch of an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during a test at Vandenberg Air Force Base, February 5, 2020

Photo by SrA Clayton Wear/U.S. Air Force

Modernizing the U.S. Nuclear Triad

Since the 1950s, the United States has fielded a nuclear Triad consisting of weapon systems that operate in the air, at sea, and on land. Major components of all three legs are nearing the end of their service lives. In a new paper, RAND experts outline the rationale for modernizing the Triad and identify arguments for and against developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

Young Black women with a cat attends a meeting on teleconference, photo by vgajic/Getty Images

Photo by vgajic/Getty Images

Could Zoom Change the Very Makeup of Populations?

Technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have transformed how we work, go to school, and visit the doctor. According to RAND experts, use of these platforms could have long-term effects on migration patterns; on our health, including fertility, morbidity, and mortality trends; and on inequality. But the extent of these effects is still unknown. That's why it's vital to track the use of collaboration technologies over time.

Closeup of a hand writing a prescription, photo by megaflopp/Getty Images

Photo by megaflopp/Getty Images

What We Know About Opioid Prescribing Trends

The overprescribing of opioid medication for pain has been a key driver of the opioid crisis. A new RAND study shows a significant decline in the volume of opioid prescriptions filled between 2008 and 2018. However, this decline varied among geographic areas, patient type, and prescriber type. “There is a lot more nuance in the changes in opioid prescribing than we previously understood,” said lead author Bradley Stein.

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