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National Institute On Drug Abuse

NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) was established by Congress in 1974, and it became part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in October 1992. NIDA's mission is to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction. This charge has two critical components: The first is the strategic support and conduct of research across a broad range of disciplines. The second is to ensure the rapid and effective dissemination and use of the results of that research to improve drug abuse and addiction prevention, treatment, and policy.

Recent scientific advances have improved our understanding of the nature of drug abuse and addiction. The majority of these advances, which have implications for how to best prevent and treat addiction, have been supported by NIDA. NIDA supports over 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction, and NIDA-supported science addresses essential questions about drug abuse, ranging from the molecule to managed care, and from DNA to community outreach research.

NIDA is seizing upon opportunities and technologies to further an understanding of how drug abuse affects the brain and behavior, and is working to ensure the rapid and effective transfer of scientific data to policymakers, health care practitioners, and to the general public. The scientific knowledge that is generated through NIDA research contributes to improving overall health in the United States.

NIDA has explored the biomedical and behavioral foundations of drug abuse, ranging from its causes and consequences to its prevention and treatment. Among the many and diverse accomplishments, NIDA-supported research has:

  • Identified the molecular sites in the brain where opiates, cocaine, PCP, and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) have their initial effect. These discoveries, together with computer-aided drug design, are paving the way for development of new medications to break the cycle of addiction.
  • Used molecular genetic technologies to clone the genes for the major receptors for virtually every abusable drug, thus providing scientists with the tools necessary to study how drugs of abuse exert their many behavioral effects.
  • Supported the development and evaluation of three medicationsLAAM, naltrexone, and buprenorphinefor the treatment of opiate addiction.
  • Defined nicotine addiction and the scientific basis for therapy using nicotine gum and skin patches.
  • Measured the positive impact of community drug-prevention strategies that involve the media, schools, families, neighborhoods, and the workplace.
  • Demonstrated that successful drug abuse treatment reduces criminality as well as relapse to addiction.
  • Pioneered community-based research on AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) prevention efforts that showed that drug users can change AIDS risk behaviors, and thus reduce their susceptibility to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection and AIDS.
  • Demonstrated that participation in methadone treatment significantly reduces HIV seroconversion rates and decreases highrisk behaviors.
  • Supported the development and evaluation of pharmacologic treatment for newborns withdrawing from exposure to narcotics.
  • Used advanced imaging techniques to identify the specific brain circuits that are involved in craving, euphoria, and other sequelae of drug addiction. These findings will provide the foundation for the development of new, targeted medications to block individual aspects of drugs.
  • Demonstrated that prenatal exposure to cigarettes and marijuana have long-term effects on cognitive performance.

The results of these and other achievements through NIDA-funded research provide a scientific foundation for helping to solve the medical, social, and public health problems of drug abuse and addiction. More information about NIDA can be found at http://www.drugabuse.gov.

Lucinda L. Miner

(see also: Addiction and Habituation; Cocaine and Crack Cocaine; Drug Abuse Resistance Education [DARE]; Marijuana; Substance Abuse, Definition of )

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