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National Institute on Drug Abuse

Director's Report to the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse

February, 2000


International Activities


NIDA Director, Dr. Alan I. Leshner, was awarded an honorary degree from the Pavlov Medical University, St. Petersburg, Russia, in an October symposium marking the centenary of the Pavlov Medical University Department of Pharmacology. Dr. Leshner presented a lecture on recent progress and emerging opportunities for understanding the biological, behavioral, and social mechanisms of drug abuse and addiction; the implications of this knowledge for prevention, treatment, and policy; and the goals for drug abuse and addiction research into the next millennium.

During October 1999, NIDA signed an Exchange of Letters with two research organizations in The Netherlands - the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and the Health Research and Development Council - agreeing to promote scientific collaboration and exchange in the fields of biomedical and behavioral research related to drug abuse. The letters were signed at an October Binational Symposium on Drug Abuse and Addiction Research and Innovation. During the symposium, NIDA Director, Dr. Alan I. Leshner, spoke on challenges and opportunities for drug abuse research, and Dr. M. Patricia Needle, International Program, addressed issues in international research collaborations. Workshop participants discussed biomedical and behavioral research on risk, resiliency, and vulnerability factors for drug abuse; principles of effective prevention programs; relapse and the role of craving; pharmacotherapies and behavioral models for drug abuse treatment; monitoring illicit drug use; and accessing hard-to-reach populations. Extramural researchers taking part included Hendricks Brown (University of South Florida), Stephen Higgins (University of Vermont), Kathleen Merikangas (Yale University), Richard Rawson (Matrix Center, Los Angeles), Terry Robinson (University of Michigan), and Claire Sterk (Emory University).

NIDA and the Spanish National Plan on Drugs cosponsored the Second Cooperation Seminar on the Evaluation of Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS Prevention Activities, held during September 1999 in Madrid. Speakers reported on current prevention programs in the United States and Spain; research methods to evaluate prevention programs, local needs, and community programs; ethnographic research methods; assessing the effectiveness of prevention interventions for high-risk adolescents; and opportunities for binational collaborative research. The U.S. delegation included: Dr. M. Patricia Needle, International Program; Dr. Richard Clayton, University of Kentucky; Dr. Merrill Singer, Hispanic Health Council, Hartford, Connecticut; Dr. Claire Sterk, Emory University, Atlanta; Dr. Richard H. Needle, CAMCODA; and Ms. Susan L. David, DESPR.

Dr. M. Patricia Needle, International Program, traveled to Baltimore, MD, in September and October 1999 to meet with the 1999-2000 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows at The Johns Hopkins University to discuss opportunities for NIDA professional affiliations with extramural researchers. In December 1999, the NIDA International Program hosted an orientation program for the Humphrey Fellows. NIDA participants included Mr. Richard A. Millstein, Deputy Director, NIDA; Drs. Henry (Skip) Francis and Richard H. Needle, CAMCODA; Dr. Nancy Pilotte, DNBR; Dr. Peter Delany, Larry Seitz, Ms. Susan David, and Ms. Moira O'Brien, DESPR; Dr. Frank Vocci, DTR&D; and Dr. M. Patricia Needle, International Program.

The 1999-2000 NIDA INVEST Fellows have begun their postdoctoral research in the United States. Dr. Vaughan Rees, Australia, will investigate whether alcohol abuse and stage of motivational change among in-treatment injection drug users are significantly related to HIV risk behaviors. He will work with Dr. Jeffrey Samet, Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Abdel Assi, Egypt, will use hippocampal brain slices from guinea pigs to investigate whether opioids produce their cognitive and analgesic effects by causing presynaptic inhibition of neurotransmitter release. Dr. Assi is working with Dr. Charles I. Chavkin, University of Washington. Dr. Elisa Mengual, Spain, will use electron microscopic immunocyto-chemical localization of transporters and receptors to study the cellular substrate for physiological interactions of dopamine, which has been implicated in the rewards produced by various drugs of abuse. Her Fellowship mentor is Dr. Virginia M. Pickel, Will Medical College, Cornell University.

Mr. Richard A. Millstein, Deputy Director, NIDA, represented the United States at the U.S.-U.K. Drug Summit in meetings with the U.K. Drugs Prevention Advisory Service, Home Office, and the U.K. Department of Health, London, England, October 24-26, 1999.

Mr. Richard A. Millstein, Deputy Director, NIDA, presented on "Epidemiology: A Tool to Guide Development of a Science-Based Drug Abuse Policy" at the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction, Lisbon, Portugal, October 28, 1999.

Dr. Svetlana Dambinova, Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, Institute of the Human Brain, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, consulted recently with NIDA and other NIH researchers at NIH headquarters and the NIDA Intramural Research Program in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Dambinova presented a seminar for U.S. scientists on the role of mu-delta opiate receptors in drug abuse diagnosis and treatment. Following her two-week working visit at the NIDA Intramural Research Program, Dr. Dambinova consulted with two NIDA-supported researchers: Dr. James Justice, Emory University; and Dr. James Smith, Wake Forest University.

Dr. Svetlana I. Chefer, Neuroimaging Research Branch, IRP, presented a poster entitled "Using Samples of Venous Blood to Calculate Metabolic Rates for Glucose with PET and FDG in Rhesus Monkeys" at the High Resolutions Imaging in Small Animals with PET, MR and Other Modalities Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 27-29, 1999.

Dr. Svetlana I. Chefer, IRP, presented a poster entitled "2-[18F]Fluoro-A-85380: A Novel Ligand for Imaging a4b2 Subtype of Nicotinic Receptors" at the Functional Imaging in Drug Discovery and Development, Centre Francais du Commerce Exterieur, Paris, France, September 30-October 1, 1999.

Dr. Alexey Mukhin, Neuroimaging Research Branch, IRP, presented a poster entitled "Radiohalogenated Analogs of A-85380, Novel Ligands for the Study of a4b2 Nicotinic Receptors" at the Neuronal Nicotinic Receptors Conference: From Structure to Therapeutics, Venice, Italy, October 1-4, 1999.

Dr. William J. Freed, Cellular Neurobiology Branch, IRP, introduced the topic and participated in the debate entitled, "Is there a future for neural tissue transplants?" at the Mexican Physiological Society meeting, Zacatecas, Mexico, on September 28, 1999, and presented a seminar entitled, "Neural Cell Lines: Applications and Methods," on October 1st at the Centro de NeurobiologRa, Universidad Nacional Aut—noma de Mexico in Juriquilla, Querˇtaro Mexico. He also spent the week as a visiting scientist at the Centro de NeurobiologRa with Dr. Magda Giordano and fellow scientists and gave advice on scientific matters.

Dr. George Uhl, Molecular Neurobiology Branch, IRP, presented at the International Symposium on Transporters and Ion Channels (Shizuoka, Japan) and at the Brain Sciences Institute, Riken Institute (Tokyo Japan) during the last weeks of August, 1999.

Dr. Kenzie Preston, Treatment Branch, IRP, presented "Safety of Buprenorphine: Ceiling Effects on Subjective and Physiological Measures at High Intravenous Doses" at the annual scientific meeting of the International Council of Alcoholism and Addiction , Vienna, Austria, August, 1999.

Dr. Kenzie Preston, Treatment Branch, IRP, presented "Developments in the treatment of opioid abuse" in the NIDA-sponsored symposium, "New Directions in Substance Abuse Treatment," at the International Council of Alcoholism and Addiction annual scientific meeting, Vienna, Austria, August 1999.

Dr. Roy Wise, Behavioral Neuroscience Branch, IRP, gave an invited address at the 21st International Summer School of Brain Research held at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research in Amsterdam in August 1999. The theme of this year's program was Cognition, Emotion, Autonomic Responses: The Integrative Role of the Prefrontal Cortex and Limbic Structures. Dr. Wise spoke on "Interactions Between Medial Prefrontal Cortex and Meso- Limbic Components of Brain Reward Circuitry.

Drs. David Gorelick, Clinical Pharmacology Section, and Charles Schindler, Preclinical Pharmacology Section of the NIDA IRP met on Dec. 1, 1999 with a group of scientists from the Russian State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology in Moscow. The meeting was to discuss possible research collaboration in the study of the enzyme butyrylcholinesterase as a treatment for cocaine addiction. The Russians' visit to the U.S. was sponsored and organized by the Biotechnology Travel Grants Program of the US Civilian Research and Development Foundation for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, on behalf of the U.S. Department of State.

Dr. Steven Goldberg, Preclinical Pharmacology Section, IRP gave a presentation entitled, "Behavioral Interactions between Caffeine and Nicotine," at the Pharmacology, Biochemistry & Behavior 4th International Meeting entitled, "Drugs of Desire: Focus on Caffeine, Nicotine & Alcohol," Morzine, France, January 10-14, 2000.

The Fogarty International Center (FIC) has launched an international tobacco control research and training effort. The aim is to support and build upon the international tobacco control research efforts of other agencies within and beyond the Department of Health and Human Services (e.g., the CDC, SAMHSA, the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative, FDA, World Bank and others). NIH Institutes who have met with the FIC and other DHHS and Federal components include NIDA, NCI, NHLBI, NIMH, NIDCD, NIDCR and NICHD and OD (OBSSR). International training, outcome evaluation, and prevention research all are being aired as possible activities of this effort.

In October 1999, Dr. Dorota Majewska, DTR&D, visited the Addiction Treatment Center, National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Warsaw Poland. During the visit she discussed with Dr. Karina Chmielewska and her colleagues certain novel pharmacotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of stimulant dependence, proposed by Dr. Majewska several years ago. They now have preliminary clinical data suggesting efficacy of piracetam combined with certain antidepressants in the treatment of amphetamine dependence. Currently NIDA is conducting a controlled trial with piracetam at the University of Pennsylvania. If a positive signal is detected, NIDA may proceed with the subsequent study combining piracetam with antidepressants. Because certain drugs (such as piracetam) are not available in the U.S. but are used in other European countries, the ability to conduct pilot/observational studies in other countries is of great value to NIDA research.

Mr. Nicholas Kozel, DESPR, cochaired a joint meeting of the East and South Asian Multi-City Epidemiology Work Group (AMCEWG) meeting held in Penang, Malaysia on November 1-4, 1999. The East and South Asian Work Group meeting was composed of researchers from Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangkok, Beijing, Hanoi, Taipei, Port Moresby, Colombo, Dhaka, and Madras. The project is funded by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and is coordinated by the Universiti Sains Malaysia. A Consensus Statement produced at the meeting stated that heroin is the primary drug of abuse in both regions. Abuse of codeine and buprenorphine in India and Bangladesh and opium in Vietnam and the emergence of Tramidol abuse in China were also noted. Abuse of methamphetamines, which historically has been endemic in the Philippines, is spreading throughout much of East Asia and is becoming a major drug problem in the region. In addition, methamphetamine abuse has recently been reported as an emerging problem in Northern India. First indications of the appearance of cocaine in Papua New Guinea were also reported. Abuse of benzodiazepines, cannabis and inhalants continue at endemic levels throughout much of the region.

Mr. Nicholas Kozel, DESPR, represented NIDA in the biannual meetings of the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (SACENDU) held in Johannesburg and Durban on October 5-7,1999. Alcohol is the dominant substance of abuse throughout the country, while cannabis and Mandrax (methaqualone) used alone or in combination (white pipe) are the major illicit drugs of abuse. Indicators of both availability and abuse of heroin and cocaine are beginning to increase noticeably, as well as club drugs, such as Ecstasy and LSD. In addition, abuse of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, including Rohypnol, continues to be an issue across sites.

Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, DESPR, met with Dr. Brian Pezzuti, Chair of Committees, Parliament of New South Wales on August 3, 1999 to discuss cross-cultural adaptation of prevention programming in the United States and Australia.

On November 2, 1999, Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, DESPR, met with Rita Azuje de Schlemo, Director of Prevention Division of Venezuela National Committee Against Illegal Drug Use. NIDA's research was of great interest to Ms. Azuje de Schlemo because Venezuela is attempting to establish prevention programming in school and neighborhood settings.

Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, DESPR, represented NIDA at the 2nd European Conference on Evaluation of Drug Prevention sponsored by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. The meeting took place on December 2-4, 1999 in Strasbourg, France.

Dr. William Cartwright, SRB, DESPR represented NIDA at the International Conference on Health and Economic Development, November 15-16, 1999 that was sponsored by the Fogarty International Center (FIC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in consultation with the World Bank and World Health Organization.

Ms. Van-Ly Phan, a French INSERM graduate student working under Dr. Tangui Maurice on a joint project in collaboration with Dr. Steven Goldberg and Dr. Tsung-Ping Su of IRP, NIDA, spent two months in Dr. Su's laboratory from September 8 to November 8, 1999. Ms. Phan worked directly with Dr. Teruo Hayashi in Dr. Su's laboratory for cloning sigma-1 receptors from NG-108 cells and rat brains and producing sufficient amounts of full length sigma-1 receptor c-DNA. The cloned c-DNA will be used for studying the involvement of sigma-1 receptors in methamphetamine self-administration.

Dr. Tsung-Ping Su, NIDA, IRP, was invited to speak at a symposium on "Opioids and Physiological Roles" in an IUPHAR South East Asia Pacific Rim Meeting held in Taipei, Taiwan on November 4, 1999. The speech was entitled "Delta Opioid Peptide DADLE Promotes Cell Survival".

Dr. Tsung-Ping Su, NIDA, IRP, was invited to give a seminar at the National Cheng-Kong University School of Medicine in Tainan, Taiwan on November 10, 1999. The title of the seminar was "Delta Opioid Peptide DADLE Protects against Apoptosis in Neuronal Cells".

Dr. Tsung-Ping Su, NIDA, IRP, was invited on November 20, 1999 to present at a special Memorial International Symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Psychiatry Department of the Hiroshima University School of Medicine in Hiroshima, Japan. Dr. Su presented a lecture entitled "Drug Action Via Sigma-1 Receptors: New Mechanism for Cognitive Enhancement and Calcium Signaling".


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