NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A university professor in Virginia will study why club drugs such as ecstasy are becoming more popular in Chinese cities.

A $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will fund the research. The findings may help health officials prevent drug abuse in countries across the globe, including the United States.

The five-year study is being led by Xiushi (shu-SHEE-a) Yang, the chair of the Sociology and Criminal Justice Department at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.

Yang says the study may also help researchers learn the health impact of the abuse. For instance, synthetic drugs can lead to more unsafe sex among users and sexually transmitted diseases.

The research will focus on nearly 2,000 people between the ages of 18 and 39.