Warren Bickel, a professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, recently received a National Institutes of Health grant of $1.7 million to study how social media might be used to prevent and treat substance abuse.

The grant was one of three major awards given to researchers studying the use of social media in addiction recovery. The grants total more than $11 million over three years. Bickel will specifically develop a social media website for people with addiction and study how they use the website and how it affects their recovery.

“Knowledge is not enough to change behavior,” said Bickel, who is also the director of the Addiction Recovery Research Center at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “Addictive disorders are chronic, but they’re treated as acute problems. We need to find creative ways to help people beyond their acute treatment episode. One way might be to take advantage of the fact that humans are exquisitely social creatures.”

Other grant recipients include Sean Young of the University of California, Los Angeles, who will use his National Institutes of Health award to study the feasibility of using social media to reduce prescription drug abuse among patients with chronic pain. Yong Ge of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte will use data-mining techniques to extract tweets related to substance use.