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What's New at the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Research News
"Missing Piece" of Receptor Decreases Effects of Nicotine
Research News imageLittle things can have big effects. In the case of the receptors in the nervous system that bind nicotine and mediate its effects on the body, including heart rate and alertness, that little thing is a subunit – a piece of the receptor. A variety of different subunits can combine and form functional nicotine receptors in the body; however, different combinations of subunits can produce receptors that work quite differently. Studies in mice have shown that animals lacking the ability to produce a particular subunit called a5, due to a genetic mutation, are much less sensitive to the physical effects of nicotine, such as nicotine-induced seizures.

Psychological Trait Helps Identify Boys at Risk of Substance Use Disorder
A psychological trait called neurobehavioral disinhibition (ND), which consists of a measurable decrease in behavior control, modulation of emotion, and higher-level thought, may help identify boys at risk of habitual drug abuse after experimentation with an addictive substance, according to a study published in the December 2007 issue of Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

News Releases
Clusters of Genetic Variants Linked to Distinct Treatment Responses for Smoking Cessation
Findings May Help to Match Smokers with Treatments Most Likely to Help Them Quit
Scientists have identified distinct clusters of genetic markers associated with the likelihood of success or failure of two smoking cessation treatments, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and the medication bupropion (Zyban). This study, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was published in the June issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

NIDA Highlights Latest Drug Abuse Research at Cincinnati Conference
Blending Addiction Science and Treatment: The Impact of Evidence-Based Practices on Individuals, Families, and Communities
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, held a 2-day conference to explore how the latest scientific findings in drug abuse can fill the current gap between research and clinical treatment practices. The conference was part of NIDA's Blending Initiative, designed to stimulate engaging dialogue between those who work with substance abusers in communities with those engaged in the latest treatment research.

Scientists Identify a Brain Mechanism Underlying Persistent Cocaine Craving
Finding May Lead to New Treatments to Decrease Risk of Relapse
Scientists have identified a mechanism in the brain that helps to explain why craving for cocaine, and the risk of relapse, seems to increase in the weeks and months after drug use is stopped. The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Discovery of Possible Link Between Protein Deletion and Addiction Wins Top Honors at ISEF
Texas High School Senior Wins First-Ever NIDA Scholastic Addiction Science Award
An ambitious exploration of the basic mechanisms underlying addiction received top honors in the new Addiction Science category at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world's largest science competition for high school students.

NIDA Researchers Identify Genetic Variant Linked to Nicotine Addiction and Lung Cancer
Variant also Increases Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
Scientists have identified a genetic variant that not only makes smokers more susceptible to nicotine addiction but also increases their risk of developing two smoking-related diseases, lung cancer and peripheral arterial disease. The research was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Hot News
Dr. Volkow in Harlem
Dr. Volkow Speaks to Parents in NYC
While in New York in April, Dr. Volkow conducted a question and answer session with a group of parents at The High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College in Harlem regarding their concerns about drug abuse. This was a follow-up meeting to a two-hour dynamic exchange Dr. Volkow held with students at the school in November about the science of addiction. A videotape of the student meeting has been produced and will soon be posted on the NIDA website.

Of Interest
Congressional Briefing Highlights New Scientific Findings on Genes and Addiction
Dr. Volkow briefing Capitol Hill was the setting for a briefing by NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow on "The Genetics of Drug Abuse and Addiction," on April 8. Other speakers at the well-attended briefing included Alexandra Shields, Ph.D., director of the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities at the Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor at Harvard, who discussed new treatment approaches to breaking the smoking habit, and Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., a NIDA grantee and professor and specialist on genetics and tobacco cessation at the University of Pennsylvania. The event was sponsored by the Friends of NIDA.

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