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NIDA Home > Publications > Director's Reports > February, 2009 Index    

Director's Report to the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse - February, 2009

Media and Education Activities

Press Releases

July 1, 2008 - Broad Differences in Alcohol, Tobacco and Illegal Drug Use Across Countries. A survey conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) research consortium found that the United States had among the highest lifetime rates of tobacco and alcohol use and led in the proportion of participants reporting cannabis (marijuana) or cocaine use at least once during their lifetime. The study, led by Dr. Louisa Degenhardt of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and colleagues, looked at patterns in the use of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and cocaine in 17 countries representing all six WHO regions (the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania). The study, funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is published in the July 1, 2008 issue of the open access journal PLoS Medicine.

July 31, 2008 - A Long Lasting Impression: New Study Finds Persistent Brain Changes in Response to Cocaine Depend on the Expectation of Reward. Drug addiction dramatically shifts a person's attention, priorities, and behaviors towards a focus almost entirely on seeking out and taking drugs. Now, an animal study funded by NIDA has identified some of the specific long-term adaptations in the brain's reward system that may contribute to this shift. These long-lasting brain changes may underlie the maladaptive learning that contributes to addiction and to the propensity for relapse, even after years of abstinence from the drug. The study was published in Neuron on July 30, 2008.

August 1, 2008 - Experts Encourage More Research into Drugged Driving: New Study Guidelines Released. (Note to Reporters). Driving under the influence of drugs, also known as drugged driving, is a growing problem in many countries. Researchers studying drugged driving use a wide range of different measurements and test for a variety of drugs that differ among studies, making comparisons between studies that could advance the science difficult. To overcome these barriers, the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety (ICADTS) convened a 4-day meeting in 2006 to develop formal guidelines for research on drugged driving, which was supported by international organizations including the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The final guidelines, including 32 recommendations for behavioral research, 40 recommendations for epidemiology, and 64 recommendations for toxicology, were published in the August 2008 issue of the journal Addiction.

August 6, 2008 - Anti-HIV "Drug Cocktails" Equally Effective in Patients with or without History of Injection Drug Use. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been extremely effective at slowing the progression of HIV infection to AIDS as well as extending the lives and improving the quality of life for those with HIV. However, some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe HAART to HIV-infected injection drug users because of concern that they may not fully benefit from the therapy. A new study by investigators funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and led by the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Canada, suggests that this is not the case: in their large, community-based study of HIV-infected people, injection drug users and people who did not inject drugs had equivalent survival rates seven years after initiating HAART. These results were published August 6 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

August 8, 2008 - NIDA Study Reveals Dopamine Receptors' Surprising Flexibility. Neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, play a key role in the long-term changes that allow a brain to continuously adapt in response to experience. This hinges on the ability of neurotransmitters to change the efficiency with which neurons talk with one another. In the striatum, a brain region critically involved in certain types of learning, dopamine is the main chemical responsible for tuning the efficiency of this communication up and down. Two types of dopamine receptors (D1 and D2) were previously thought to have completely opposite functions in this process, whereby D1 and D2-expressing neurons could only tune the strength of the connections either up or down, respectively. The present study dispels that notion, demonstrating that conditions in the local brain environment can make it possible for both cell types to carry out either function, thereby resolving a long-standing scientific puzzle posed by conflicting experimental evidence. These findings were reported in an article in the August 8, 2008 issue of Science by NIH-funded investigators Paul Greengard, Ph.D. of Rockefeller University and James Surmeier of Northwestern University and their colleagues.

September 5, 2008 - NIDA Announces Recipients of New Avant-Garde Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research. NIDA today announced the first three recipients of its new Avant-Garde Award. This award is intended to stimulate high-impact research that may lead to groundbreaking opportunities for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in drug abusers. Award recipients will receive $500,000 per year for five years to support their research.

September 18, 2008 - NIDA Unveils "Innovations" in Addiction Research. The first annual NIDA Notes "Innovations" issue, released September 18th, features examples of benchmark NIDA research advances, all of which have profound implications for addiction science. Highlights include deep-brain exploration made possible by new optical technologies; remote control of animal behavior in real time; and novel approaches to pain treatment. Articles in this issue shed light on mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's and will explore the role of memory in addictive behavior.

September 22, 2008 - NIDA Launches New Research Dissemination Center - DrugPubs. NIDA launched its new Research Dissemination Center (DrugPubs), designed to distribute the latest scientific materials and information on drug abuse and addiction to virtually all audiences: drug abuse researchers, health professionals, teachers, advocacy groups, teenagers and the general public. In its first month, NIDA DrugPubs sent out 145,000 NIDA publications. Callers to 1-877-NIDA-NIH or visitors to can receive scientific information on drug abuse in a timely and effective manner.

October 1, 2008 - World-Renowned Hispanic Scientists Gather to Address Disparities in Hispanic Drug Use, Treatment and Prevention. The National Hispanic Science Network (NHSN) on Drug Abuse held its eighth annual conference, "Community, Behavioral and Molecular Sciences in Addictive Disorders," October 1-3, 2008 at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda, Maryland. NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow presented the keynote address, "Imaging Obesity and Addiction." In her address, Dr. Volkow examined the links between obesity and addiction from the basic biological, the epidemiologic, and the treatment perspective.

October 31, 2008 - Top NIH Neuroscience Experts to Discuss the Latest in Neurological and Psychiatric Research. (Media Advisory). Find out the latest news about the brain and its complexity from the world's top experts. Several institute directors and program leaders from the National Institutes of Health will be available to discuss success stories and new directions in neuroscience research during this year's Society for Neuroscience meeting. This is a rare opportunity to meet and interact with several NIH directors and other leading neuroscientists. Topics include mental health, substance abuse, brain issues related to aging, eye health, as well as stroke and neurological disorders.

November 4, 2008 - Extended Suboxone Treatment Substantially Improves Outcomes for Opioid-Addicted Young Adults. In the first clinical trial of a medication that was used for an extended time to treat opioid addiction in young adults, participants who received counseling and Suboxone (buprenorphine-naloxone) for 12 weeks had substantially better outcomes than those who received the standard treatment of short-term detoxification and counseling. The study, published November 5 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted through the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network supported by NIDA. Opioids include heroin, morphine and prescription pain killers such as Vicodin and Oxycontin.

November 10, 2008 - NIDA's Frontiers in Addiction Research Mini-Convention. (Media Advisory). NIDA will convene a one-day mini-convention at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. NIDA scientists will present recent findings and discuss future directions in neuroscience. Concepts to be discussed include: how the environment can alter gene function (epigenetics) in addiction and brain development; what determines free will or "free won't"; and how ground-breaking imaging technologies can reveal gene activation in the living brain, and/or control neurons and behavior.

December 11, 2008 - Downward Trend in Teen Marijuana Use Slows; Prescription Drug Abuse Remains High. There are signs that the ongoing decline in teen marijuana use in recent years has stalled; however the downward trend in cigarette and alcohol use continues, according to the 2008 Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey. Results were announced at a news conference on this date.

Research News

Full NewsScans can be seen at

August 4, 2008 - NIDA NewsScan #54 - Research News

  • Increase in Heart Infection Caused by Injection Drug Use Observed
  • Positive Emotions Linked to Smoking May Contribute to Difficulty Quitting in Dual-Smoker Couples
  • Hemopressin Binds to Cannabinoid Receptor and Reduces Perception of Pain
  • Anti-Inhalant Messages Targeting Young Adolescents Vary in Ability to Influence Future Use
  • Therapeutic Playgroup May Help Foster Children with School Success Skills
  • Motivational Interviewing Reduces Marijuana Use in At-Risk Adolescents
  • Pain Management with Virtual Reality - Exploring the Underlying Neurobiology
  • Chaperone Protein Sig-1R Helps Cells Regulate Calcium Levels Under Stress

September 29, 2008 - NIDA NewsScan #55 - Research News

  • Children's but Not Adolescents' Behavior Improves With Parents' Sobriety Counseling
  • Methadone Maintenance Before Prison Release Increases Participation in Community-Based Treatment
  • Chromosome Region Involved in the Development of Dopaminergic Neurons Identified
  • Onsite 12-Step Meeting at Treatment Program Improves Odds of Sustained Abstinence
  • Linked Gene Variations Associated With Nicotine Dependence
  • Adolescents Allowed to Smoke at Home Have Higher Level of Nicotine Dependence
  • Cigarette Reduction in Adolescent Smokers Does Not Reduce Toxin Exposure
  • Effects of Drugs of Abuse on the Aging Brain Explored

October 30, 2008 - NIDA NewsScan #56 - Research News

  • Graphic Warnings Change Viewers' perception of Tobacco Advertisements
  • Disulfiram and Naltrexone May Help Adherent Patients Abstain from Cocaine and Alcohol
  • Smokers' Brains Ignore Error Messages
  • Nicotine Receptor Subunit Alters Postsynaptic Signaling
  • Computerized Cognitive-Behavioral therapy Plus Standard Therapy Helps Reduce Drug Use
  • Computer Therapy for Opioid Addiction Effective at Promoting Abstinence
  • Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants Among First-year College Students
  • Parental Monitoring Reduces High School Drinking, Leading to Reduced College Drinking
  • "Good Behavior Game" Improves Early Classroom Behavior and Leads to Impact in Young Adulthood
  • Experts Encourage More Research into Drugged Driving: New Study Guidelines Released
  • Dialing Up or Down: The Surprising Versatility of Dopamine Receptors
  • Frontiers in Addiction Research: NIDA to Hold Mini-Convention at Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting (Meeting of Interest)
  • NIDA Announces DrugPubs - A New Research Dissemination Center (Other NIDA News)

November 30, 2008 - NIDA NewsScan #57 - Research News

  • First-Year College Students Show High Rate of Cannabis Use Disorders
  • Factors Associated with Detectable HIV Viral Load in a Vulnerable Population
  • Adolescents Who Work for Pay More Likely to Use Tobacco
  • MDMA Use Does Not Appear to Cause Depression in Most People
  • Starting Middle-School in Sixth Grade Increases Behavior Problems
  • Ovarian Hormones May Play a Role in Smoking Cessation for Women
  • Researchers Estimate Number of Injection Drug Users in the United Sates 1992-2002.

Interviews & Articles of Interest

September 9, 2008, Los Angeles Times -- Interview with Nora Volkow, M.D., about prescription drug addiction.

September 9, 2008, BBC -- Interview with Dr. Linn Goldberg about marijuana.

September 9, 2008, MSN Health and Fitness -- "Predicting Addiction: Why some people go from trying to requiring." Dr. Steven Grant, DCNBR was interviewed by Tina Adler for / Health and

September 11, 2008, ABC On-line -- Interview with Dr. Wilson Compton about opioid addiction.

September 11, 2008, LA Times -- Interview with Dr. Bennett Fletcher and Dr. Lisa Onken about effective length of treatment for drug addictions.

October 3, 2008, Men's Vogue -- Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Robertson about methamphetamine programs in U.S.

October 9, 2008, The Washington Post -- Interview with Dr. David McCann about new treatments.

October 9, 2008, O (Oprah) Magazine -- Interview with Nora Volkow, M.D., about relapse from weight loss.

October 17, 2008, Newsweek -- Interview with Nora Volkow, M.D., about BNL study on obesity and dopamine.

October 22, 2008, AP -- Interview with Nora Volkow, M.D., about study on obesity and dopamine.

October 24, 2008, Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly (Vol 20(45) November 24, 2008, pp. 1 ,6-7) -- "Scientists: Brain Circuitry Research Could Alter Course Of SA Treatment." Dr. Steven Grant, DCNBR, was interviewed by Gary Enos of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly for an article regarding the findings presented at Society for Neuroscience.

November 10, 2008, LA Times -- At addiction centers, longer treatment programs are proving key to ending the relapse-rehab cycle. Lisa Onken of DCNBR was interviewed on the topic of drug addiction treatment and length of treatment.

November 19, 2008, USA Today -- Interview with Dr. John Satterlee about epigenetics.

December 11, 2008, Channel 8 News -- Interview with Dr. Wilson Compton and Dr. Nora Volkow about Monitoring the Future Survey Results.

December 12, 2008, Behavioral Health Care -- Interview with Dr. Nora Volkow about Monitoring the Future Survey Results.

December 12, 2008, Newsday -- Interview with Dr. Nora Volkow about Monitoring the Future Survey Results.

December 12, 2008, ABC Radio -- Interview with Dr. Nora Volkow about Monitoring the Future Survey Results.

Additional Highlights

August 7, 2008 -- The PILB press team coordinated a press event at International AIDS Conference, held in Mexico City. The press event featured Drs. Nora Volkow and Jacques Normand highlighting HIV/AIDS portfolio and public awareness campaigns, as well as taking questions from the participants. Reporters from fifteen international print media outlets, four broadcast outlets and three wire agencies attended. In conjunction with the Conference, Dr. Volkow was interviewed on CNN en Espanol and on two separate Univision news programs. She participated in four one-on-one radio interviews as well as nine interviews for Hispanic print media outlets. Dr. Normand also participated in a newspaper interview. Dr. Volkow was also interviewed at the end of July for the PBS program "To the Contrary," an all-female news analysis series that provides an important, timely forum for women to discuss national and international issues and policies. Dr. Volkow discussed drug abuse and women, why women over 40 have high rates of lifetime drug abuse, and approaches to treatment for women with drug addictions.

Outreach Activities

October 7, 2008 -- More than 30 NIDA researchers and science writers answered a record total of 1,300 questions from close to 100 schools nationwide at NIDA's second annual Drug Facts Chat Day. Although NIDA limited the number of schools that could participate this year, we still received 11,000 questions, underscoring how much teens (and their teachers) want to learn real facts about drug use. For the first time, the event was covered by the Associated Press (AP). AP Reporter Kevin Freking, along with an AP video crew, attended the event at both Chat Day headquarters and at Rockville High School to glean perspectives from both sides of the computer. NIDA's Dr. Nora Volkow and Dr. Joe Frascella were interviewed for the story, which was published in more than 20 print and online publications including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Education Week and

Learn the Link Campaign. "After the Party," the Spanish portion of NIDA's drugs + HIV > Learn the Link campaign was one of five nominees for a special Emmy award bestowed each year for national public service announcements.


NIDA's Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award Program (SEDAPA) project, "Drug Abuse, Addiction, and the Adolescent Brain," has received a Bronze Telly Award. This project, developed by Anne Westbrook of BSCS (who also developed the high school curriculum project, "The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology through the Study of Addiction"), includes DVD and print curriculum materials for middle school teachers and students on drug abuse and the brain. Founded in 1979, the Telly Awards honor the finest video and film productions, outstanding local, regional, and cable TV programs and commercials, and groundbreaking web commercials, videos and films. This year there were 13,500 entries from around the world. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, corporate video departments, and SEDAPA grantees.

Recent and Upcoming Conference Exhibits

NIH Summit: The Science of Eliminating Health Disparities
National Harbor, MD -- December 16-18, 2008

Addressing Substance Abuse and Comorbidities Among Military Personnel, Veterans and Their Families: A Research Agenda
Bethesda, MD -- January 6-7, 2009

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) National Leadership Forum XIX
National Harbor, MD -- February 9-12, 2009

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) 40th Annual Convention
Boston, MA -- February 24-28, 2009

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) 57th Annual National Conference
New Orleans, LA -- March 19-21, 2009

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 40th Annual Medical-Scientific Conference
New Orleans, LA -- April 30-May 3, 2009

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 162nd Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA -- May 16-21, 2009


Research Findings

Program Activities

Extramural Policy and Review Activities

Congressional Affairs

International Activities

Meetings and Conferences

Media and Education Activities

Planned Meetings


Staff Highlights

Grantee Honors

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