Joseph J. Palamar

Joseph J. Palamar, MPH, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Population Health

drug use, epidemiology , public health

Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor in the Section on Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drug Use in the Department of Population Health. He earned his PhD in Public Health from New York University in 2010 and was honored with the NYU Steinhardt Outstanding Dissertation Award. He also earned an MPH and an MA in educational psychology, both from New York University, and his BA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College (CUNY). Dr. Palamar is a Research Affiliate at the NYU Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), and he teaches statistics at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. He is an Associate Editor for academic journals including Behavioral Medicine and the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and he also serves on the editorial boards for Drug and Alcohol Dependence and Addiction Research & Theory. He has been awarded two NIH loan repayment (LRP) awards and recently received a Research Career Development Award (K01) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to advance his training in qualitative methods and measure development. Dr. Palamar also has extensive experience analyzing large datasets such as Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). His primary research focus is drug use epidemiology, with specialty in new psychoactive substances, club drugs, drug policy, drug-related risky sexual behavior, and attitudinal predictors of drug use. He is interested in informing prevention and harm reduction for drug users—particularly individuals in the nightclub and dance festival scenes. He has published extensively about marijuana, ecstasy (MDMA, Molly), “bath salts”, GHB, methamphetamine, ketamine, cocaine, and synthetic cannabinoids. 




NAME:  Palamar, Joseph James

POSITION TITLE:  Associate Professor (Research) of Population Health




(if applicable)


Completion Date





John Jay College, NY, NY



Forensic Psychology

New York University, NY, NY



Educational Psychology

New York University, NY, NY



Public Health

New York University, NY, NY



Public Health

  1. Personal Statement

My research and publication record reflect my commitment to investigate the epidemiology of drug use and to pursuing an independent research career. I am a new investigator with a diverse background in psychology, epidemiology, and in the study of drug use, and I specialize in psychosocial correlates of drug use. I have focused heavily on the epidemiology of new psychoactive substance (NPS) use, “club drug” use, and drug-related risky sexual behavior—especially within the electronic dance music (EDM) nightclub and festival scene. During my doctoral and postdoctoral training I gained extensive experience in data analysis and learned to analyze data from large national datasets such as Monitoring the Future (MTF) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). In February of 2015, I was awarded a K01 (DA038800) to advance my training in survey development and to investigate use of NPS in the EDM scene.

B.  Positions and Honors

Positions and Employment

  1. Research Assistant, New York University (NYU), The Steinhardt School

    2001-2003    Research Assistant, NYU, Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS)

    2004-2006    Clinical Research Coordinator, NYU School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry

    1. Assistant Research Scientist, NYU School of Medicine, Department of Child and Adolescent

           Psychiatry, Child Study Center

      2008-2010    Teaching Assistant, NYU, the Steinhardt School 

      2009-2014    Adjunct Instructor, NYU, College of Nursing

      2010-2011    Adjunct Instructor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York (CUNY)

      2010-2013    Assistant Professor, NYU School of Medicine, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

      2010-            Research Affiliate, CHIBPS & Institute of Human Development and Social Change, NYU

      2013-2017    Assistant Professor, NYU School of Medicine, Department of Population Health 

      2013-            Research Affiliate, Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), NYU

      2014-            Assistant Adjunct Professor, NYU, College of Nursing

      2017-            Associate Professor, NYU School of Medicine, Department of Population Health 

      Other Experience and Professional Memberships

  2. Research Intern at CHIBPS, NYU

    2011-            NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) Ambassador

    2013-            Associate Editor, Behavior Medicine

    2014-            Regular Member, College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD)

    2014-            Member, the NIDA Clinical Trials Network (CTN), Greater New York Node

2015-                  Mentor, Substance Abuse Research Education and Training (SARET), NYU

2015-2016    Editorial Fellow, Drug and Alcohol Dependence

2016-            Editorial Review Board, Drug and Alcohol Dependence

2016-            Editorial Review Board, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

2016-                  Member, CPDD Media Committee

2016-                  Mentor, CPDD Members in Training Committee's Mentorship program

2016-                  Associate Editor, The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

2017-            Editorial Review Board, Addiction Research & Theory 

2017-                  Early Career Reviewer Program, Center for Scientific Review, NIH


1998             Nassau County JFK Memorial Scholarship  

2007             Public Health Association of New York City (PHANYC) 2007 Goldmann Student Merit Award

2008             Dean’s Grant Award for Student Research, New York University

2010             Banner Bearer Honor at the 13th Annual NYU Steinhardt Doctoral Convocation

2010             The Outstanding Dissertation Award, 13th Annual NYU Steinhardt Doctoral Convocation

2011             Loan Repayment Program (LRP) award recipient for Health Disparities Research, NCMHD

2013             LRP award renewal recipient for Health Disparities Research, NCMHD

2015             Drug and Alcohol Dependence Fellowship Award

2016                   Elected Member, Delta Omega Honorary Public Health Society, Delta Beta Chapter, NYU

2017                   NYU CDUHR Travel Award to attend Club Health conference in Dublin, Ireland

2017                   NIDA Notes spotlight article: Nonmedical Opioid and Heroin Use among High School Seniors

C.        Contribution to Science

Drug Use Epidemiology: Nationally Representative Samples. The majority of adults in the US have used an illegal drug in their lifetime. However, some groups are at higher risk for use and/or adverse outcomes, and risk often differs greatly by drug. My major research interest is to examine prevalence and correlates of use of various drugs in the US (and in NYC), and I aim for my findings to inform prevention, harm reduction, and policy. While my main interest is drug use in the electronic dance music scene (discussed below), I have focused heavily on nationally representative samples. Early in my career I spent most of my time investigating use of “club drugs” including ecstasy (MDMA, “Molly”), ketamine, GHB, powder cocaine, and methamphetamine. However, in 2013, I began learning how to analyze national datasets, expanded my interests, and began investigating use of more prevalent drugs. I have focused most heavily on Monitoring the Future (MTF), which is an annual nationally representative sample of high school seniors. I then learned how to analyze data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). I have also begun analyzing and publishing data from local and national Poison Control Center. In the last few years I have authored over 25 papers focusing on such national data and have focused on drugs including alcohol, marijuana, hookah, cocaine, synthetic cannabinoids, “bath salts”, opioids, heroin, DMT, and ecstasy/MDMA (“Molly”). My colleagues and I were the first to author papers focusing on NPS use (e.g., synthetic cannabinoids, “bath salts”) among nationally representative samples in the US, and we aim to disseminate all of our findings to inform prevention—not only to the scientific community, but also to the public. Thus, we issue press releases for most of our papers and many have received extensive media coverage. Thus far, we have had our papers published in high-tier journals such as Pediatrics and Addiction, and our opioid paper (cited below) was presented as a Research Highlight in the May 2016 NIDA Director’s Report, and presented in NIDA Notes. Our marijuana paper (cited below) was also presented as a Research Highlight in the May 2017 NIDA Director’s Report. While my main research interest is the nightclub scene, I plan to continue to produce and disseminate findings based on nationally representative datasets.

  1. Palamar JJ, Barratt MJ, Coney L, Martins SS. Synthetic cannabinoid use among high school seniors. Pediatrics 2017;140. pii: e20171330. PMCID: PMC5613996
  2. Palamar JJ, Zhou S, Sherman S, Weitzman M. Hookah use among US high school seniors. Pediatrics 2014;134: 227-234. PMCID: PMC453127
  3. Palamar JJ, Shearston JA, Dawson EW, Mateu-Gelabert P, Ompad DC. Nonmedical opioid and heroin use in a nationally representative sample of US high school seniors. Drug Alcohol Depend 2015;158:132-138. PMCID: PMC469806
  4. Han BH, Sherman S, Mauro P, Martins SS, Rotenberg J, Palamar JJ. Demographic trends among older marijuana users in the United States, 2006-13. Addiction 2016; 112:516-525. PMCID: PMC5300687

Drug Use Epidemiology: Electronic Dance Music Scene. I have been a researcher in the NYC nightclub scene since I was first hired as a research assistant at NYU in early 2001. Originally a member of this scene for many years, I witnessed a lot of drug-related adverse outcomes including poisonings, addiction, and the deaths of many friends. I thus decided to dedicate my research career to help prevent drug use and associated adverse outcomes in this scene. This scene is under-researched and this is problematic as the popularity of this scene is increasing since electronic dance music and dance festivals have gained popularity (with this business booming into a $7.4B industry). As many of these parties have turned mainstream, use of drugs such as ecstasy (“Molly”) have become more problematic, as have NPS such as “bath salts” which are prevalent in this scene. Alarmingly, my colleagues and I have been finding (via my K01 research) that at least 40-50% of Molly users have been using “bath salts” or other NPS unknowingly as an adulterant. We have even been detecting dangerous NPS such as alpha-PVP (“Flakka”) and PMMA in hair samples of ecstasy users in this scene. My colleagues and I have been disseminating my nightclub drug use findings from my NYC study, and also from MTF and the international Global Drug Survey. I have been conducting my nightclub/festival drug survey the past three summers and hope to be able to expand my study via an R01 mechanism.

  1. Palamar JJ, Salomone A, Gerace E, Di Corcia D, Vincenti M, Cleland CM. Hair testing to assess both known and unknown use of drugs among ecstasy users in the electronic dance music scene. Int J Drug Policy  2017;48:91-98.  PMCID: PMC5601020
  2. Palamar JJ, Salomone A, Vincenti M, Cleland CM. Detection of ‘bath salts’ and other novel psychoactive substances in hair samples of ecstasy/MDMA/“Molly” Users. Drug Alcohol Depend 2016; 161: 200-205. PMCID: PMC4792679
  3. Palamar JJ, Acosta P, Sherman S, Ompad DC, Cleland CM. Self-reported use of novel psychoactive substances among attendees of electronic dance music venues. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 2016;42:624-632. PMCID: PMC5093056
  4. Palamar JJ, Griffin-Tomas M, Ompad DC. Illicit drug use among rave attendees in a nationally representative sample of us high school seniors. Drug Alcohol Depend 2015;152:24-31. PMCID: PMC4458153

Epidemiology of Use of New Psychoactive Substances. Increasing use of NPS is an alarming trend because these compounds are new and researchers and users alike know little about their effects. NPS continue to emerge at an alarming rate (e.g., over 100 were discovered in 2014 alone). Adding to the problem, many NPS appear only briefly and then are soon replaced by new NPS compounds, which are often even more dangerous. For example, synthetic cannabinoids (a.k.a.: Spice and K2 drugs) are the most prevalent NPS, and newer, more dangerous compounds continue to emerge. Synthetic cannabinoids continue to be associated with clusters of poisonings in the US. Synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”) are the second-most prevalent NPS compounds with some 118 compounds discovered by 2016. Alpha-PVP (“Flakka”) use has been most problematic and its use has led to hundreds of poisonings and deaths in the state of Florida. Alarmingly, we are detecting alpha-PVP in the hair of nightclub attendees who have been using it unknowingly (likely in their ecstasy). Most drug surveys do not query NPS use and NPS use is difficult to assess. Problems with estimating NPS use include: 1) researchers and users being unfamiliar with drug names, 2) unclear definitions of NPS being queried on surveys (e.g., participants not knowing methylone is a “bath salt”), and 3) unknown or unintentional use of NPS. I am addressing these limitations through my K01 research by testing various methods of querying hundreds of NPS which are often unfamiliar and confusing to participants. For example, my colleagues and I recently determined that “gate” questions on surveys about NPS best be avoided (cited below). Thus far, I have piloted my rapid NPS survey on three large samples of nightclub/festival attendees and have continued to validate and improve the survey. In addition, to assess unknown NPS use, Dr. Salomone and I have been testing hair samples of my participants and we have determined that a large portion (40-50%) of ecstasy users have been using NPS such as “bath salts” unknowingly. I hope to expand upon this work via an R01 mechanism.

  1. Palamar JJ, Acosta P. Synthetic cannabinoid use in a nationally representative sample of us high school seniors. Drug Alcohol Dependence 2015; 149: 194-202. PMCID: PMC4361370

  2. Palamar JJ, Su MK, Hoffman RS. Characteristics of novel psychoactive substance exposures reported to New York City Poison Center, 2011-2014. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 2015;42:39-47. PMCID: PMC4767576

  3. Palamar JJ, Acosta P, Fernández Calderón F, Sherman S, Cleland C. Assessing self-reported use of new psychoactive substances: the impact of gate questions. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 2017;43:609-617. PMID: PMC28485987
  4. Palamar JJ, Martins SS, Su MK, Ompad DC. Self-reported use of novel psychoactive substances in a us nationally representative survey: prevalence, correlates, and a call for new survey methods to prevent underreporting. Drug Alcohol Depend 2015;156:112-119. PMCID: PMC463332

Attitudinal Correlates of Drug Use. Research has shown that attitudes toward drug use are important predictors of use. Specifically, disapproval towards use is negatively associated with use. However, while negative attitudes are usually “self-protective” against use, stigma experienced by users and those who are dependent can be damaging (e.g., stigma can lead to secretive use and prevent individuals from seeking treatment). Thus, my dissertation focused on developing measures that assess stigmatization and perception of public stigma related to use of specific illicit drugs. I conducted this work because most stigma research had focused solely on users who are dependent and I am primarily interested in stigma towards recreational use, which is more prevalent. I also compared the stigma associated with cannabis to the stigma associated with other illicit drugs. I developed and validated scales that measure stigma associated with illicit drug use and published five papers from this doctoral work. I was also awarded the NYU Outstanding Dissertation Award for this work. I continue to incorporate attitudinal measures into most of my work (including many published papers from MTF and in my nightclub/festival survey) as attitudes are important factors that tend to be overlooked in survey research.   

  1. Palamar JJ. Predictors of disapproval towards “hard drug” use among high school seniors in the United States. Prev Sci 2014; 15(5):725-735. PMCID: PMC5065010
  2. Palamar JJ, Kiang MV, Halkitis PN. Development and psychometric evaluation of scales that assess stigma associated with illicit drug use. Subst Use Misuse 2011; 46:1457-1467. PMID: PMC21767076
  3. Palamar JJ. A pilot study examining perceived rejection and secrecy in relation to illicit drug use and associated stigma. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012; 31:573-579. PMID: PMC22176135
  4. Palamar JJ, Acosta P, Cleland, C. Attitudes and beliefs about new psychoactive substance use among electronic dance music party attendees. Subst Use Misuse 2017; 4:1-10 [Epub ahead of print]. NIHMSID: 91457

D.  Research Support

Ongoing Research Support

K01DA038800                                                            Palamar (PI)                           02/15/2015 – 02/14/2020


Development of a Rapid Survey to Detect Use of New and Emerging Drugs

The purpose of this study is to develop a rapid and adaptive screening tool and to identify use and correlates of use of new and emerging psychoactive drugs in scenes at highest risk for use (i.e., at nightclubs and dance festivals) using sentinel surveillance.


Completed Research Support (Last 3 years)


NYU Center of Drug Use and HIV Research            Palamar (PI)                           02/15/2015 – 10/15/2016

Pilot study funded by P30DA011041 (PI, Deren)      , NIH/NIDA

Use of Psychoactive Drugs and Sexual Risk Behavior among Nightclub and Festival Attendees

The purpose of this study is to investigate prevalence, correlates and potential sexual risk behavior associated with use of new and emerging psychoactive drugs among nightclub and dance festival attendees.


R01DA022123-06                                                       Ompad (PI)                             10/01/2013 – 7/31/2015         


Heroin Cessation and HIV Risk: A Case-Control Study

The purpose of this case-control study is to characterize the prognostic indicators, including HIV infection, for the positive outcome of sustained heroin cessation among persons with a prior history of chronic heroin use within economically disadvantaged, predominantly racial/ethnic minority neighborhoods in New York City.

Role: Data Analyst


R01HD066122-04                                                       Brotman (PI)                           07/15/2010 – 05/31/2015       


Family and School Contexts as Predictors of Early Childhood Latino Development

The goal of this study is to test a model of early childhood development that incorporates developmental and cultural concepts to examine the family context, the school context, and the intersection of the two as predictors of the academic and behavioral functioning of Latino children.

Role: Data Analyst



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These focus areas and their associated publications are derived from medical subject headings from PubMed.
represents one publication

Associate Professor, Department of Population Health

PhD from New York University

MPH from New York University

Han, Benjamin H; Moore, Alison A; Sherman, Scott E; Palamar, Joseph J

Drug & alcohol dependence. 2018 Mar 31; 187:48-54

Dorsen, Caroline; Palamar, Joseph; Shedlin, Michele G.

Addiction research & theory. 2018 Mar 29; 1-8

Palamar, Joseph J; Le, Austin; Cleland, Charles M

Drug & alcohol dependence. 2018 Mar 27; 186:226-232

Palamar, Joseph J

Journal of psychoactive drugs. 2018 Feb 22; 50(1):88-93

Palamar, Joseph J; Griffin-Tomas, Marybec; Acosta, Patricia; Ompad, Danielle C; Cleland, Charles M

Psychology & sexuality. 2018 Jan 8; 9(1):54-68

Metz, Verena E; Brown, Qiana L; Martins, Silvia S; Palamar, Joseph J

Drug & alcohol dependence. 2017 Dec 27; 183:261-266

Fernandez-Calderon, Fermin; Cleland, Charles M; Palamar, Joseph J

Addictive behaviors. 2017 Nov 04; 78:85-93

Palamar, Joseph J; Le, Austin

Drug & alcohol dependence. 2017 Oct 20; 181:208-212