Division of Substance Dependence


Among Americans, substance dependence is the psychiatric disorder that takes the most lives. 

The mission of the Division of Substance Dependence is “To reduce mortality and morbidity (death and suffering) from substance dependence in Colorado and nationally through clinical treatment, research, and teaching.”

Our History

The Division of Substance Dependence was established in 1999, in the Department of Psychiatry under the leadership of Thomas Crowley, M.D., being built from the Department’s Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS) and from associated research programs. ARTS had been established since 1971. From its inception, the Division’s commitment to excellence in teaching, research, and clinical practice has been facilitated by the close linkage between the Division’s research faculty and the Division’s clinical programs, collectively known as Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS). Under the leadership of J.T. Brewster, LCSW, ARTS grew to be one of the largest providers of addiction treatment services in the Denver metropolitan area. Under the leadership of Kristen Dixion, MA, LPC, who became Executive Director of ARTS in 2015 after Brewster’s retirement, ARTS began to further expand its addiction treatment programs and services in primary care medical settings. Under the leadership of Paula Riggs, M.D., who became Division Director in 2011 after Crowley’s retirement, the Division, comprised of 17 faculty at or above the rank of Instructor, has maintained a strong national reputation receiving millions of dollars in NIH research support annually. Additionally, in the past five years, the Division has doubled the number of Division-affiliate research faculty members in order to expand collaborative research opportunities and capacity for multidisciplinary team research. Within the Department of Psychiatry, Division faculty and ARTS significantly contribute to the educational mission of the School of Medicine by teaching medical students, residents, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows and clinical rotations at ARTS.

Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS)

Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS) is a collection of clinical program within the Division of Substance Dependence, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. ARTS has provided residential and outpatient empirically supported substance abuse treatment services in Colorado for over 40 years, with an emphasis on psychosocial and pharmacological treatments for adolescents, women, men, families and those involved in the criminal justice system. ARTS is on the cutting edge of scientific research, medical education and clinical care for the purpose of reducing death and dying from addictive disorders.


ENCOMPASS is an integrated, evidence-based treatment for adolescents and young adults with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders that can be feasibly implemented by providers and treatment programs who serve such youth. ENCOMPASS was developed by a research team, led by Dr. Paula Riggs, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine, and is based on more than 15 years of clinical research. ENCOMPASS is affiliated with Synergy Adolescent Treatment Services and the University's Division of Substance Dependence and Addiction Research and Treatment Services.

The Division of Substance Dependence received its first research grant about 40 years ago from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health. Since then we have successfully and consistently received funds from various sources for a variety of research projects.

Some current foci of our research:
Adolescent Substance Abuse and ADHD
Genetics of adolescent drug dependence
Behavioral interventions to control the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among drug users
Efficacy of psychosocial and pharmacologic treatments
Clinical description and classification of substance use disorders 
Behavioral processes of drug reinforcement
Functional MRI brain imaging of substance-dependent adolescents 

Project Safe

Project Safe is a research program of the Division of Substance Dependence, Department of Psychiatry, at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. We strive to reduce the spread of HIV and HEP C through research based prevention education, drug treatment facilitation, social service referrals, and street outreach. We have been in existence since 1987, under the direction of Drs. Robert Booth, PhD, and Karen Corsi, ScD, MPH, with the majority of funding provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). 

For more information about current studies please call 1-800-429-9240.

The faculty of the Division of Substance Dependence assumes a major role in teaching about substance use disorders to medical students, psychiatry residents, the psychiatric community, and citizens of the community, state, and nation. The Division offers electives in research and clinical care (at Addiction Research and Treatment Services) for Addiction Psychiatry Fellows. Through the Mentored Scholarly Activity Program of the School of Medicine, Division Faculty serve as mentors to medical students wishing to fulfill their independent learning requirement.

At scientific and clinical meetings the Division’s faculty continually teach other scientists about advances at our center, while learning from those scientists and clinicians the latest research findings from elsewhere.

The Division is committed to educate the public about Substance Use Disorders. An example was the significant contribution of the Division to the HBO series "Addiction" in 2007.

Contact Info:

Division of Substance Abuse

13001 E. 17th Place

Mail Stop F570

Aurora, CO 80045

Phone: 303-724-3183