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National Institute on Drug Abuse

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

May, 1999

International Activities

On March 22-23, 1999, Dr. Alan Leshner hosted an official delegation from The Netherlands representing the Committee of the Dutch Program on Addiction (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and Health and Development Council). The purpose of the visit was to exchange information on addiction research, particularly in the areas of epidemiological surveillance, prevention and treatment, and to explore possibilities for research collaboration with NIDA. NIDA staff presenters included Dr. Kathleen Etz, Prevention Research Branch, DEPR; Dr. Jack Blaine, Treatment Research Branch, DCSR; Nicholas Kozel, DEPR; and Dr. Bennett Fletcher, Services Research Branch, DCSR. The meeting resulted in agreement to establish research cooperation in areas of mutual interest, and to meet again in The Netherlands in October to formalize plans for the cooperation and to participate in a joint scientific symposium.

On February 23, 1999, the review committee for the NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellowship met to select Fellows for the 1999-2000 academic year. Four prospective Fellows Teodora Ciolompea (Romania), Tatiana Kitkina (Russia), Evodia Mokoko (South Africa) and Sergiy Dvoryak (Ukraine) – were selected to participate in the program at The Johns Hopkins University. This NIDA-supported component of the Humphrey Program includes a four- to six-week professional affiliation with a NIDA grantee to design a research proposal for implementation in the Fellow's home country after return.

In late February, NIDA's International Program, Office of Science Policy and Communications, arranged an orientation visit to the Institute for 1998-1999 INVEST Research Fellows Dr. You Wan (China) and Dr. Neo Morojele (South Africa). Also invited were AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP) Fellows Dr. Ola Borodkina and Roman Dyatlov, both of Russia. The orientation included a welcome from NIDA Director Dr. Alan Leshner and presentations by NIDA staff about grant application requirements, funding and proposal preparation. The group also paid a visit to the NIDA Intramural Research Program in Baltimore to learn about the research being conducted there.

Mr. Nicholas J. Kozel, DEPR, participated in the regional meetings of the South African Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Abuse (SACENDU) on March 15-19, 1999 in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg. SACENDU is sponsored by the Medical Research Council of South Africa and World Health Organization (WHO). SACENDU's mission is to develop a multi-city drug abuse surveillance program in the country based on epidemiologic and ethnographic data. Historically, the most serious substance abuse problems in South Africa have involved alcohol, cannabis and Mandrax. Recently, new drugs, especially crack cocaine and heroin, have become available, as well as LSD and ecstasy. Recent information also reveals an increase in drug abuse among youth and an increase in intravenous drug use. Based on the success of SACENDU over the past three years in implementing an effective drug abuse surveillance program in South Africa, the Medical Research Council has been notified that it will receive a grant from the European Union to transfer the epidemiology network technology to Southern African Developing Countries (SADC), including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland, with the objective of establishing a regional epidemiologic surveillance infrastructure.

Mr. Nicholas J. Kozel, DEPR, co-chaired a joint meeting of the East and South Asian Multi-City Epidemiology Work Group (AMCEWG) meeting held in Penang, Malaysia on November 9-12, 1998. The AMCEWG was established in 1990 and is composed of researchers from Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangkok, Yangon, Beijing, Hanoi, Taipei, Vientiane, Dhaka, Colombo, Islamabad, and Madras. An Advance Report and a meeting Proceedings are produced annually describing the current status of drug abuse in the AMCEWG cities and emerging drugs of abuse. Heroin is the primary drug of abuse in both East and South Asian countries. Recent increases in opium abuse have been noted in East Asian countries, while buprenorphine continues its upward trend in South Asia. A major emerging drug problem throughout the East Asia is methamphetamine abuse. In addition, "ecstasy" has become firmly established as a "club drug" in East Asia and is making inroads as a drug of abuse in South Asia. The endemic level of abuse of benzodiazepines and inhalants continues throughout both South and East Asia. The AMCEWG project is jointly funded by the Association of South East Asian Nations and the Government of Malaysia and recently has received a grant from the United Nations International Drug Control Programme to expand its membership and data collection activities.

Mr. Nicholas J. Kozel, DEPR, was the recipient of a Fellowship from the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan. The Fellowship was arranged by the National Institute of Mental Health, Division of Drug Dependence and Psychotropic Drug Clinical Research of the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry and was sponsored by the Society of Japanese Pharmacopoeia. The Fellowship took place on February 1-10, 1999, and involved information exchange, primarily through visits to drug abuse research, treatment and prevention offices for discussions with researchers and program officials about the current status of drug abuse in Japan. Discussions also focused on data development and establishment of a community based infrastructure for drug abuse epidemiologic surveillance.

On January 4, 1999, Dr. Elizabeth Robertson, PRB, DEPR, met with Mr. Gustavo Ascacibar from the Drug Enforcement Commission of Peru and Carmen Luisa Barrantes, the coordinator of demand reduction programs at the U.S. Embassy. Prevention programming in Peru and the United States was discussed.

On April 26-30, 1999, Drs. Robert Battjes and Bennett Fletcher, Division of Clinical and Services Research, participated in meetings of the NIH-World Health Organization Joint Project on Assessment of Disablements, held in Geneva Switzerland. Under this project, cross-cultural assessment instruments are being developed to measure the extent of disability and functional limitation resulting from alcohol, drug abuse, mental and physical disorders. Health services research pilot studies will be conducted to assess the utility and validity of the instruments in predicting service utilization and clinician-assessed needs. A methodology will also be developed to estimate disability weights that can be used in the calculation of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYS) for selected disorders.

Dr. Amy Newman, IRP, presented the Sato Memorial International Award Address entitled "Novel Probes for the Dopamine Transporter" at the 119th Annual Meeting of the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan held in March 1999.

In collaboration with Drs. Tangui Maurice and Alain Privat at the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale in Montpellier, France, Drs. Tsung-Ping Su and Steven Goldberg, NIDA IRP, are studying the effects of methamphetamine self-administration on the regulation of type 1 sigma receptors which have been shown to be related to learning and memory, and perhaps drug-seeking behavior, in animals.

On April 9, 1999, Ms. Doris Olmedo, Deputy Director, Press Administration, Ministry of the Presidency of Panama, visited NIDA to learn about the Institute's research portfolio and publications on prevention and treatment of drug abuse.

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