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NIDA Media Advisories


[1996 Advisories][1995 Advisories]

Index of 1996 Advisories

For Immediate Release: December 19, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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Marijuana and Tobacco Use Still Rising Among 8th and 10th Graders

Marijuana and tobacco use increased among eighth and tenth graders between 1995 and 1996, while use of these substances remained generally level among twelfth graders, according to the 22nd annual "Monitoring the Future" survey, released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The survey also showed an increase in the use of alcohol by eighth graders.

The survey showed increases in lifetime, annual, current (use within the past 30 days) and daily use of marijuana by eighth and tenth graders, continuing a trend that began in the early 1990s. Among twelfth graders, rates of marijuana use remained high and increased for lifetime use, but for the first time since 1993 showed no significant change in annual, current or daily use.

Cigarette smoking also continued to rise among eighth and tenth graders and remained high among twelfth graders, although there were no statistically significant changes in the high school seniors' cigarette use.

Daily use of alcohol increased for eighth graders, while remaining level for tenth and twelfth graders, although at high rates.

The findings were released at a press conference by HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala, National Drug Control Policy Director Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey (Ret.), Education Secretary Richard Riley and Transportation Secretary Frederico Pena.

The clear increase in use of marijuana among younger high school students stood in contrast with mixed and overall unchanged measures for other drugs. Secretary Shalala noted in particular that this year's survey shows an increasing problem with perceptions of the dangers posed by marijuana. Among eighth and tenth graders, the perceived risk of using marijuana continued to decline, while perceived risk of using other drugs either increased or remained level.

"Everyone needs to give our young people the clear and unambiguous message that drugs are illegal, dangerous and wrong," Secretary Shalala said. "Marijuana today poses an increasingly serious drug abuse problem, and our children need to know that. In particular, I ask all American parents to talk with their children about drugs, and especially to talk about marijuana."

Five months ago, HHS launched its "Reality Check" public information campaign aimed at helping parents discuss marijuana with their children. Free materials are available from 1-800-729 6686. HHS also sponsored the first national conference on marijuana in July 1995, and is funding and disseminating findings from new research on the effects of the drug. In addition, the Clinton Administration has launched a major initiative to prevent smoking by minors. FDA regulations affecting retail sales to minors and the advertising of tobacco products begin to go into effect in 1997.

"Increased use among students in eighth and tenth grades is a wake-up call for America," said General McCaffrey. "Because marijuana use by youth is highly correlated with future use of addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin, we must step up our efforts to prevent drug abuse among children of all ages. All adults must accept responsibility for leading and protecting our youth. Parents, educators, community and religious leaders, and the media have the power and the authority to lead our children to make healthy life choices. We must all renew our commitment, so clearly laid out in the National Drug Control Strategy, that keeping our children drug-free is our number-one priority."

Marijuana:

The 1996 Monitoring the Future Study found that 23.1 percent of eighth graders had tried marijuana at least once in their lifetime, compared to 19.9 percent in 1995. Among tenth graders, lifetime marijuana use increased from 34.1 percent in 1995 to 39.8 percent in 1996. Current use of marijuana among eighth graders increased from 9.1 percent in 1995 to 11.3 percent in 1996 and increased among tenth graders from 17.2 percent in 1995 to 20.4 percent in 1996.

Among high school seniors, there were no statistically significant increases or decreases in annual, current or daily use of marijuana from 1995 to 1996, although the percentage of seniors who had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime increased from 41.7 percent in 1995 to 44.9 percent in 1996. This is well below the peak level reported in 1979, when 60.4 percent had used marijuana at least once in their lifetime.

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the agency that funded the survey, said, "It is important that young people understand the harm and danger caused by illicit drug use. Through continuing years of objective, scientific research, this risk has become ever clearer, and not just for drugs such as cocaine and heroin but also for marijuana."

Research shows that marijuana is harmful to the brain, heart, lungs and immune system. It limits learning, memory, perception, judgment and complex motor skills like those needed to drive a vehicle. It has been shown to damage motivation and interest in one's goals and activities. Marijuana cigarette smoke typically contains over 400 carcinogenic compounds. In addition, new evidence suggests that marijuana may be addictive and that, among heavy users, its harmful short term effects on alertness and attention span last more than 24 hours.

Tobacco:

Cigarette smoking continued to rise among eighth and tenth graders and remained at high levels among twelfth graders, although there were no statistically significant changes in seniors' use. Between 1995 and 1996, use of cigarettes in the past month increased from 19.1 to 21.0 percent among eighth graders and from 27.9 to 30.4 percent among tenth graders. About one-third of twelfth graders (34.0 percent) used cigarettes in the past month.

In 1996, the percentage of tenth graders who smoked a half pack of cigarettes or more daily, increased from 8.3 percent in 1995 to 9.4 percent in 1996. Current use of cigarettes among tenth graders increased between 1995 and 1996 for both males and females.

Alcohol:

Between 1995 and 1996, the percentage of eighth graders reporting daily use of alcohol increased from 0.7 percent to 1.0 percent. In addition, the percentage of eighth graders reporting having "been drunk" in the past month increased from 8.3 percent in 1995 to 9.6 percent in 1996. Alcohol use among tenth and twelfth graders remained level but at high rates, with 21.3 percent of tenth graders and 31.3 percent of twelfth graders reporting having been drunk in the past month.

Other survey findings include:

  • Current use of hallucinogens decreased among twelfth graders from 4.4 percent in 1995 to 3.5 percent in 1996. Current use of LSD among tenth graders decreased from 3.0 percent in 1995 to 2.4 percent in 1996 and among twelfth graders from 4.0 percent to 2.5 percent. Current use of PCP among twelfth graders increased from 0.6 percent in 1995 to 1.3 percent in 1996.

  • Current use of inhalants decreased among twelfth graders from 3.2 percent in 1995 to 2.5 percent in 1996. Use of inhalants among eighth and tenth graders remained stable.

  • The survey found increases in the non-medical use of tranquilizers among eighth and tenth graders. Lifetime, annual and past month use increased among eighth graders and lifetime use increased among tenth graders from 6.0 percent in 1995 to 7.1 percent in 1996. In addition, daily use increased among seniors.

  • Past year use of cocaine (including crack) increased among twelfth graders from 4.0 percent in 1995 to 4.9 percent in 1996. There was an increase in the percentage of tenth graders who had tried cocaine at least once in their lifetime, rising from 5.0 percent in 1995 to 6.5 percent in 1996.

  • This is the first year that a question regarding the use of MDMA (Ecstasy) was added to the questionnaire for all three grades. Only senior data on friends' use and availability of MDMA were collected previously. In 1996, 6 percent of twelfth graders, 5.6 percent of tenth graders and 3.4 percent of eighth graders had used MDMA at least once in their lifetime.

The 1996 Monitoring the Future Survey was conducted under a NIDA grant to the University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research. Under the direction of Dr. Lloyd Johnston, the survey was administered in the spring of 1996 to a national probability sample of 14,824 high school seniors, 15,873 tenth graders and 18,368 eighth graders in public and private schools. The study has been conducted annually since 1975, with 1996 representing the 22nd annual survey of high school seniors and the sixth year data have been collected on eighth and tenth graders.

NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice.


For Immediate Release: December 13, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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New Regional Brain Imaging Center Inaugurated

General Barry R. McCaffrey, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will join Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), NIH, for the dedication of NIDA's new Regional Brain Imaging Center on Monday, December 16, 1996. The new Imaging Center is located at NIDA's Intramural Research Program on the Johns Hopkins University Bayview Campus in Baltimore, Maryland (4940 Eastern Avenue). The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 11:30a.m.

The Brain Imaging Center has been established in part with substantial financial support from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which, through its Counter-Drug Technology Assessment Center, provided $6 million to purchase a new Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging camera and cyclotron.

"PET technology has proved invaluable to our understanding of brain chemistry and how drugs of abuse affect the brain and behavior. This new Brain Imaging Center will enable us to accelerate our efforts to identify compounds that neutralize the effects of illegal drugs on the brain and to develop treatments for drug addiction," said Dr. Leshner.

NIDA research on drug addiction has made significant strides through the use of PET. This technology has allowed researchers to measure the effects of drugs of abuse on brain function with high anatomical resolution. Using PET, scientists can trace the entry of drugs of abuse into the brain and identify where they attach to specific sites. Recent NIDA conducted and support studies using PET already have increased scientistsŐ understanding of drug craving, and are pointing the way for developing new treatment medications.

The opening of the Brain Imaging Center adds to the substantial research and technology resources already available to NIDA scientists at its Intramural Research Program (IRP). This program originated as the Addiction Research Center in Lexington, Kentucky in 1935. It was established to develop and implement treatments for drug addiction and to conduct pioneering studies into the nature of the addictive process. Major research contributions of the IRP include identifying the multiple sites in the brain where opiates act, advancing the use of methadone to treat heroin addiction, and identifying and cloning the receptor for cocaine.

The Program's current Baltimore site is the largest U.S. facility devoted to the study of drug abuse and addiction. The IRP, with a budget of $25 million, supports a broad range of drug abuse and addiction research ranging from molecular and cellular biology, to brain imaging, to treatment research. The IRP facility includes a 30 bed research hospital and a 80 slot outpatient treatment research clinic.

NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice.

For more information on the NIDA Brain Imaging Center call the NIDA press office at (301) 443-6245 or visit the NIDA World Wide Web home page at http://www.nida.nih.gov/.


For Immediate Release: November 29, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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New Brain Studies Yield Insights Into Cocaine Binging and Addiction

Scientists supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have identified some of the unique properties of cocaine that account for the binging pattern of use exhibited by cocaine addicts. Their studies show that repeated and frequent activation of the dopaminergic system by cocaine results in an abnormal state in one of the brainŐs neural circuits. This altered brain circuit may be responsible for the dramatic difference in brain functioning which has been found to exist between the occasional drug user and the cocaine addict. This study is published in the winter 1996 issue, Vol. 15, No. 4, of the Journal of Addictive Diseases.

Cocaine use is uniquely characterized by binging. Cocaine produces a rapid, yet short lived "high," which results in users consuming the drug frequently and repeatedly. This pattern of binging appears tied to the unique way cocaine affects the brain. Researchers compared cocaine to a chemically-similar stimulant drug, methylphenidate, and found that both drugs are taken up in the same regions of the brain very rapidly, but the rates of clearance from the brain are very different; cocaine clears from the brain much faster than methylphenidate.

The rapid uptake of both cocaine and methylphenidate account for their initial pleasurable experience, or the "high" that is experienced by users. However, unlike methylphenidate, the extremely fast clearance of cocaine from the brain sets the stage for frequent abuse, craving of the drug, and the binging pattern of use frequently exhibited by cocaine addicts. Then, following long-term binging, the continual stimulation of particular neural circuits is thought to lead to long-term changes in the brains of chronic cocaine users that in turn lead to further compulsive drug use.

"These findings have significant implications for the development of treatments for cocaine addiction," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA. "Using the knowledge from this study will enable us to develop both medications that target appropriate mechanisms in the brain as well as behavioral therapies to extinguish drug-seeking behavior," added Dr. Leshner.

Dr. Nora Volkow, principal investigator of the study, said "Our research has shown that cocaine binging and addiction must be understood both in terms of the pharmacokinetic properties of cocaine that make it so addictive, as well as the characteristics of the individuals who become addicted to it. Both biological as well as environmental factors must be considered."

These studies conducted by Dr. Volkow and her colleagues use a state-of-the-art neuroimaging technique, called positron emission tomography (PET), that allows researchers to view biological activity in the brains of awake subjects. "Now, for the first time, we can get a direct measure of how drugs affect the structure and functioning of the human brain," said Dr. Leshner. He added that, "With these neuroimaging techniques, we are witnessing extremely exciting times for substantial advances to be made in the area of drug addiction as well as other brain diseases."

NIDA, a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85 percent of the worldŐs research on drug abuse and addiction. Its mission is to conduct and support research to increase knowledge and to promote effective strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction.

For more information about this study and other research support by NIDA, contact the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245. NIDA Media Advisories and other information materials are available on the Home Page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.


For Immediate Release: November 22, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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NIDA Names New Scientific Director

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one of the National Institutes of Health, has announced the appointment of Barry J. Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., as Scientific Director and Director of NIDA's Division of Intramural Research. Dr. Hoffer will direct NIDA's intramural research program, based in Baltimore, which includes studies on the causes, consequences, treatment, and prevention of drug abuse and addiction and on the biomedical mechanisms underlying the addictive process.

"Dr. Hoffer is a highly recognized scientist of international repute in the areas of neuropharmacology, neurotransplantation, trophic factors, and developmental neurophysiology," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA. "Dr. Hoffer will further the progress of our intramural program as we confront current challenges for drug abuse treatment, such as the need for cocaine treatment medications and the transmission of HIV through drug use," he added.

Prior to his appointment at NIDA, Dr. Hoffer was professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. He also directed two NIH funded Centers at the University of Colorado, one for the National Institute Neurological Disorders and Stroke focusing on Parkinson's disease and the other for the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Hoffer has published more than 300 papers in neuropharmacology and developmental biology.

As NIDA's Scientific Director, Dr. Hoffer will be responsible for planning, evaluating, and directing all aspects of NIDA's intramural research. He will also head up programs of multidisciplinary laboratory and clinical research based in the Addiction Research Center (ARC), home for NIDA's Division of Intramural Research. The ARC, started in 1935, is the largest U.S. facility devoted to the study of drug abuse and addiction. The ARC was established to develop and implement treatments for drug addiction and to conduct pioneering studies into the nature of the addictive process. Major research contributions of the ARC include advancing the use of methadone to treat heroin addiction and explaining repeated relapses into drug abuse.

Dr. Hoffer and the DIR are located on the Bayview campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore where the DIR operates a state-of-the-art brain imaging center, a 26-bed inpatient treatment research unit, and an 80-slot outpatient treatment research unit.

NIDA is the primary Federal agency conducting and supporting research to increase knowledge and promote effective strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction.

To schedule an interview with Dr. Hoffer or to obtain further information on NIDA's intramural research program, call the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245. This release will be posted on the NIDA World Wide Web home page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.


For Immediate Release: November 19, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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New Drug Prevention Program Helps Student Athletes Avoid Steroids Use

A new drug prevention and education program called ATLAS (Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids) is extremely effective in preventing use of anabolic steroids among high school athletes, according to a study published in the November 20, 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study demonstrated that students in the ATLAS program had enhanced healthy behaviors, reduced factors that encourage steroid use, and lower intent to use steroids. The ATLAS program, created by scientists at the Oregon Health Sciences University and led by Dr. Linn Goldberg, was funded by a research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health.

"This is the first prevention study that has focused on the abuse of anabolic steroids," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA. "The results are promising, with the potential to have a long-term impact of health of young people and on their use of drugs such as steroids."

The ATLAS program includes seven 50-minute classes led by coaches and student team leaders. These sessions focus on the effects of steroids, sports nutrition, and strength training alternatives to steroids use. Students also participate in drug refusal role playing and learn about anti-steroids media messages. In addition to the classes there are seven weight room sessions taught by Oregon Health Sciences University research staff. Information is also distributed to parents, and they were invited to a discussion session.

"ATLAS is a very unique approach to dealing with the problem of steroid use among athletes. It involves a team-approach that empowers student athletes to make the right choices through education. And we now know it works," comments Dr. Goldberg.

The randomized, prospective study involved 1,506 football players/students from 31 different high schools. This year-long study was the first study to use coaches as members of the drug prevention team. Students filled out confidential questionnaires immediately before and after participating in the ATLAS program and then again approximately 12 months later to measure the effectiveness of the program.

Compared to student athletes who were not exposed to the ATLAS program, ATLAS participants had increased understanding of the effects of steroids, greater belief in personal vulnerability to the consequences of steroid use, improved drug refusal skills, less belief in steroid-promoting media messages, increased belief in the team as an information source, improved perception of athletic abilities and strength training self-efficacy, improved nutrition and exercise behaviors and reduced intentions to use steroids.

In the 1995 Monitoring the Future Study, conducted under NIDA funding by the University of Michigan, about 2% of students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades had used anabolic steroids at least once in their lives. Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. Their use, by athletes and others, increases lean muscle mass, strength, and the ability to train longer and harder. However, anabolic steroids use can produce severe physical and emotional side effects. For adolescents, a serious side effect can be premature skeletal maturation, or stunted growth. Other risks include severe acne, trembling, high blood pressure, jaundice, and liver tumors. In addition, clinical depression often occurs when use of anabolic steroids is stopped, a factor which may lead to dependence.

NIDA, an Institute of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85% of the world's research to increase knowledge and promote effective strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice.

NIDA's research program on drug abuse prevention approaches has shown that when prevention programs are developed and implemented on sound theory and epidemiologic and behavioral research, such as the ATLAS program, they will decrease drug use. Other effective prevention approaches were highlighted at a recent NIDA conference on drug abuse prevention research.

For additional information on this study and other NIDA research, contact NIDA at (301) 443-6245 or visit the NIDA web site at http://www.nida.nih.gov.


For Immediate Release: October 31, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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New Action-Oriented Drug Education Materials Now Available to Parents, Teachers, and Students

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institutes of Health, and Scholastic Inc., a popular producer of educational publications and materials, have joined forces to help parents, teachers, and students arm themselves with knowledge in the fight against drug abuse. The core of this project is a classroom poster and teaching guide, and a 4-page parent take-home guide which provides important science-based information about drug abuse and addiction.

Since 1991, surveys have shown significant increases in the use of drugs by young Americans. At the same time, perception among young people that drug use is dangerous and wrong has declined dramatically. The Monitoring the Future study, funded by NIDA and conducted by the University of MichiganŐs Institute for Social Research, has been surveying drug use and related attitudes of AmericanŐs adolescents since 1975. The 1995 survey found that use of illicit drugs by high school seniors increased by 10% from 1991 to 1995.

"Our research shows that accompanying this upward trend in drug use is a significant erosion in anti-drug perceptions and knowledge among young people," says Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA. "This is why we are pleased that so many teachers are working to arm students with knowledge about drugs and their harmful effects," he continued.

Richard K. Delano, Director, Youth Health Initiatives, Scholastic Inc. said, "Scholastic Inc. is pleased to work with NIDA in providing credible, research-based information and anti-drug activities which will reach more than 73,000 third through sixth grade teachers and 2.3 million students." The poster/teaching guide and parent guide will be included with the November 1 issue of Scholastic News being sent to grades 3 through 6.

The parent guide provides a wealth of information in 4 pages. It answers some basic drug questions in easy to understand Q & A form. It provides facts about inhalants, tobacco and marijuana -- three commonly abused drugs -- and provides activities for parents and kids to do together to learn about drugs. The guide also lists the five messages that need to be conveyed to all children, clearly and consistently: (1) drugs are dangerous and unhealthy; (2) not everyone uses drugs; (3) drugs can harm your entire body, (4) the more you take drugs, the more you harm yourself; and (5) do something positive instead of taking drugs.

The large, colorful classroom poster features cartoon schoolchildren sending anti-drug messages including: drugs are for losers, drugs slow you down and mess you up, and cigarettes stink and cause air pollution. On the flip side of the poster is a teaching guide that provides teachers with background information on drug abuse and a variety of cross-curricular classroom activities that raise studentsŐ awareness of the dangers of drug abuse and build important life-skills.

NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85% of the world's research to increase knowledge and promote effective strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction. Scholastic Inc. has had over 75 years of experience in education publishing. Its products, including magazines, books and an education channel, are used by over 90% of the NationŐs elementary, middle, and high schools.

For more information about this project, contact the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245. NIDA Media Advisories and other materials information are available on the Home Page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.


For Immediate Release: October 18, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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NIDA Town Meetings in St. Louis Area Present Latest Scientific Findings About Drug Abuse and Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) will hold two Town Meetings in the St. Louis area on October 28 and 29 to present the latest scientific information available to prevent and treat drug abuse and addiction.

With reports of teen drug use in Missouri on the rise, Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA, will convene "Drug Abuse and Our Youth: Myths vs. Reality," a community meeting to be held October 28, 1996, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Kirkwood High School, 801 West Essex Avenue in Kirkwood, Missouri. Dr. Leshner will discuss with parents, teachers, concerned citizens and civic leaders what science has taught us about drug abuse and addiction and ways to reduce their impact among today's youth. He also will learn from them what kinds of scientific information they believe are needed to better deal with these problems.

On October 29, Dr. Leshner will host a community town meeting to focus on how state policy makers, private sector organizations, schools, and community and religious organizations can utilize the latest scientific research to assess Missouri's drug problems and develop programs tailored to meet state and local needs.

In discussing the need for the town meetings, Dr. Leshner explained, "We know from research that drug abuse is a preventable behavior and drug addiction is a treatable illness or disease. One of NIDA's most important goals is to expand our efforts to translate research findings, especially those about the actions and effects of drugs on the brain, to help the public better understand the nature of addiction and the most effective strategies for its prevention and treatment."

Cosponsored, with the Missouri State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Agency and Washington University School of Medicine, "Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction: Myths vs. Reality," will be held at the Regal Riverfront Hotel, 200 So. 4th Street in St. Louis, Missouri. The morning session, beginning at 9:00 a.m., will feature presentations and question and answer periods led by Dr. Leshner and researchers from St. Louis spotlighting local research efforts. The afternoon will feature an interactive discussion with the Missouri drug abuse prevention and treatment community on how current knowledge can influence decision making in St. Louis.

Among the Missouri participants will be: Michael Couty, Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse; Paul Hanna, Executive Director of the Missouri Association of Community Task Forces; Linda Riekes, Coordinator of the Missouri Area Drug Free Schools programs; Edward F. Tasch, Executive Director of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse; and Danny Wedding, Ph.D., Director of the Missouri Institute of Mental Health.

Washington University participants include: Linda Cottler, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry; Theodore Cicero, Ph.D., Vice Chancellor of Research in the Department of Psychiatry of the School of Medicine; Samuel Guze, M.D., head of the Department of Psychiatry; and Carl Fichtenbaum, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine in the School of Medicine Division of Internal Medicine.

The latest local data compiled through NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) investigator, Heidi Israel, St. Louis University School of Medicine, show that the use and trafficking of methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and heroin is up in the state of Missouri. Heroin-related emergency room visits in St. Louis (and Metro East) were up 111 percent. Cocaine-related emergencies were up 19 percent and marijuana-related emergencies increased 316 percent. The number of methamphetamine cases in the state of Missouri handled by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration rose from six in 1994 to 30 in 1996.

"We know now from research more than we have ever known about drug abuse addiction and how to get a handle on the problem. We want to bring this information to the people in St. Louis who can use it to make a difference in their communities. We also want to hear comments and suggestions from the community about how NIDA's research can address their needs for information," Dr. Leshner said.

NIDA, an Institute of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85% of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Further information on NIDA research can be found on the Home Page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.

Dr. Leshner will be available for interviews prior to and during the conference. For interviews and coverage information, call the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245.


For Release on: October 14, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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Scientists Identify Brain Systems Involved in Drug Craving

Researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health, and Yale University have identified major areas of the brain activated during drug craving by cocaine addicts. Using Positron Emission Tomography (PET), scientists have, for the first time, visualized changes in the brain triggered by environmental cues that are associated with past experiences of using drugs and that lead to drug craving, even when no drug is available.

Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA, described this research as extremely important, saying that, "Drug craving is a central aspect of addiction and poses a serious obstacle to treatment success for many individuals. Twenty years of neuroscience research have finally brought us to the point where we can actually see increases in activity in specific areas of the brain that are linked to the experience of craving. If we can understand the mechanisms by which certain stimuli cause craving in people addicted to cocaine or other drugs, more effective treatment strategies can be developed which target these areas of the brain."

People recovering from drug addiction are routinely advised to avoid friends and locations that have been previously associated with using drugs. When people addicted to cocaine or other drugs return to taking them after a period of abstinence, it is often because of an intense desire or craving for drugs actually caused by exposure to various stimuli in environments previously associated with drug use, whether or not the drugs themselves are now available.

In this study, researchers compared metabolic activity in various parts of the brain in a group of cocaine abusers (13 volunteers) and a group of controls (5 volunteers who had not used drugs other than nicotine and alcohol in the preceding 10 years). Test sessions consisted of presentations of cocaine-related stimuli and neutral stimuli. The cocaine-related stimuli consisted of drug paraphernalia, cocaine powder, and a videotape of people smoking and snorting cocaine; the neutral stimuli consisted of arts and crafts tools and a videotape of a person handling craft items.

In addition to measuring glucose metabolism in brain regions while the volunteers viewed the videos, the investigators used questionnaires for the volunteers to report their level of "urge" or "need" for cocaine. The cocaine-addicted group responded to the drug-related stimuli, but not to the neutral stimuli, with both drug craving and increased glucose metabolism in several regions of the brain. The control group showed no response to either set of stimuli. In addition, in the addicts, the increases in regional brain metabolism correlated significantly with the individuals' self-reports of craving: the more the craving the more brain activation.

The brain regions activated during exposure to the drug-related stimuli were the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and cerebellum, regions involved in several aspects of memory and emotion. "Activation of these brain regions, which integrate emotional and cognitive aspects of memory, by drug-related cues, could contribute to one of the hallmarks of addiction, the excessive focus on activities that lead to further drug use," according to Dr. Edythe London of NIDA's intramural research program who initiated and directed the study.

Although the researchers did not directly test memory, Dr. Steven Grant, the lead investigator on the study said, "the findings suggest that the mechanisms of memory processing are as important to the understanding of cocaine craving as are the direct effects of the drug on the nervous system."

The study, carried out at NIDA's Intramural Research Program, is published in the October 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Funding for the study was also provided by the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary Federal agency conducting and supporting research to increase knowledge and promote effective strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction. NIDA's intramural research program recently celebrated 60 years of conducting research on all aspects of drug abuse and applying that research to make drug abuse prevention and treatment more effective.

For more information about this study and other research supported by NIDA, contact the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245. NIDA Media Advisories and other information is available on the Home Page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.


For Immediate Release: October 11, 1996
Contact: Mona W. Brown or Sheryl Massaro: (301) 443-6245

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Early Pregnancy Halted By Chemicals in Marijuana

Scientists have determined a link between activation of the biological receptors that respond to cannabinoids, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana, and abrupt interruption of pregnancy at a very early stage. Research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, both of the National Institutes of Health, suggests that exposure of embryos to the cannabinoids can often prevent the embryos from attaching to the uterine wall.

"This research adds to the growing body of evidence on the serious and harmful effects of marijuana, which many people mistakenly believe is a 'safe' drug," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA.

In studies conducted on mouse embryos, University of Kansas scientists Zeng-Ming Yang, B. C. Para, and S. K. Day first demonstrated that, when the cannabinoid receptors were activated in the embryos, embryonic development usually ended on or before the eight-cell, or 3-day stage. When a compound was added to block activation of the receptors, the scientists found the embryos developed normally.

This research is reported in the October issue of the journal Biology of Reproduction, published by the Society for the Study of Reproduction.

NIDA is the primary Federal agency responsible for the conduct and support of research to increase knowledge and develop strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction.

For additional information on this study and other NIDA research, call the NIDA Press Office at (301) 443-6245. Copies of NIDA Media Advisories and other information are available on the Home Page at http://www.nida.nih.gov.


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