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National Institute on Drug Abuse

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

September, 1999

Congressional Affairs

Hearings/Briefings of Interest

August 12, 1999 - Medications Development - Dr. Frank Vocci, Director, Medications Development Division, NIDA, briefed Marcia Lee, Senate Judiciary Committee staff to Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), at her request. The briefing covered NIDA's medications development program, current research efforts, how NIDA works with the pharmaceutical industry, and information about various approaches to developing anti-addiction medications.

July 30, 1999 - Drug Addiction Treatment Act - Dr. Alan Leshner, Director, NIDA, and Dr. Frank Vocci, Director, Medications Development Division, NIDA, testified before the House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and Environment (Chairman Bilirakis, R-FL) at a hearing on medications for treating drug addiction, and on H.R. 2634, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act. (Dr. Leshner's statement is available at

July 15, 1999 - Research Data Available Under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) - The Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing to discuss HR88, legislation concerning data availability under the FOIA. HR88 would amend the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 1999, to repeal the requirement regarding data produced under Federal grants and agreements awarded to institutions of higher education, hospitals, and other nonprofit organizations. Members heard widely divergent opinions on the impact of legislation to mandate the release of data collected under federal grants through the FOIA. At issue was language inserted by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) into last year's omnibus appropriation bill directing the OMB to revise its Circular A-110 to require the release to the public of research data from federally funded grants under FOIA. The subcommittee heard from 2 panels consisting of 6 witnesses each. Dr. Harold E. Varmus, Director, NIH, who was among the witnesses, testified that the "pitfalls of unrestrained openness" include "the chilling effect that inappropriate public scrutiny could have on the free exchange of ideas and the willingness to take risks to find answers." He said "... inappropriate sharing of preliminary data could lead to misinterpretation of results."

June 16, 1999 - Legalization of Drugs - The Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources held a hearing on legalization of drugs. Witnesses included Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Director, ONDCP; Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director, NIDA; and Donnie Marshall, DEA, among others. (Dr. Leshner's statement is available at

June 7, 1999 - Roundtable Discussion of Dopamine: Too Much, Too Little, and Addiction - Dr. Alan Leshner, Director, NIDA, made a presentation to Members and staff of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and The Environment who attended an NIH-sponsored Roundtable Discussion of Dopamine: Too Much, Too Little, and Addiction. Dr. Leshner focused on the important role that dopamine plays in addiction. He discussed how a series of basic scientific discoveries demonstrate that independent of an addictive drug's initial site of action, every drug - be it nicotine, heroin, cocaine, marijuana or amphetamine - appears to increase levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain's reward pathway. It is this effect on the dopamine system, either directly or indirectly, that is thought to contribute to the addictive nature of these substances. Dr. Leshner stressed that by having a better understanding of dopamine and the other neurochemical systems and neurocircuits that might be involved in the addiction process, scientists will be in a better position to develop more effective medications for addiction. As new medications are developed and tested for addiction including treatments for emerging drug problems like methamphetamine, NIDA will be in a position to test these promising medications in its National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network.

Bills of Interest

HR 2130 - Date-Rape Prevention Act. Sponsored by Fred Upton, R-MI, this bipartisan bill aimed at curbing the abuse of three sedatives that have emerged as so-called "date rape" drugs, was approved August 5, 1999 by the House Commerce Committee. The measure would add GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid, also known as Liquid Ecstasy) and GBL (gamma butyrolactone, a primary component of the GHB) to Schedule I, and ketamine to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. The legislation also would require the Justice Department to assist with the development of forensic tests to detect the ingestion of GHB or related substances; direct the HHS Secretary to submit annual reports to Congress estimating the number of sexual assault cases involving date-rape drugs; and require the HHS Secretary to develop a national awareness campaign to educate people about the dangers of date-rape drugs and the strong CSA criminal penalties that could be imposed on those who abuse them.

HR 2260 - On June 17, 1999, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) introduced The Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999. The bill is designed to amend the Controlled Substances Act to promote pain management and palliative care without permitting assisted suicide and euthanasia. The bill, which has 152 co-sponsors, was approved for full committee action by the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution on July 20, 1999.

H.R. 2391- On June 30, 1999, Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) introduced the National Center for Research on Domestic Health Disparities Act. The bill would create at NIH a National Center for Research on Domestic Health Disparities, responsible for coordinating its activities with the national research institutes; developing a comprehensive plan for minority health research at NIH; and ensuring the inclusion of members of minority groups in clinical research. H.R. 2391 also would provide an advisory committee for the Center and authorize $100 million for FY 2000 and such sums as may be necessary for the four succeeding years, in addition to other authorizations of appropriations for the other agencies of the NIH. In addition, the bill would authorize the Center Director to carry out a program to facilitate minority health research by providing for research endowments at centers of excellence. H.R. 2391, which has 70 co-sponsors, was referred to the House Committee on Commerce.

H.R. 2634 - Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 1999 - On July 29, 1999, Representative Tom Bliley (R-VA) introduced H.R. 2634, the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 1999, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act with respect to registration requirements for practitioners who dispense narcotic drugs in schedule IV or V for drug addiction treatment. The bill would allow qualified physicians, as determined by DHHS, to prescribe schedule IV and V anti-addition medications in physicians' offices without an additional DEA registration if certain conditions are met. These include certification by participating physicians that: they are a physician licensed under state law; they are trained to treat opiate abuse; they have the capacity to refer patients for counseling and other appropriate ancillary services; the total number of patients shall not exceed a specified number unless the Secretary HHS adjusts the number. Other key provisions include the following: the drug involved must be approved by the FDA for use in maintenance or detoxification treatment and must not have been the subject of an "adverse determination;" if a physician dispenses a narcotic drug in Schedule IV or V in violation of this law, a practitioner may lose his registration with DEA; during the first 3 years either the Secretary or the Attorney General may make a determination that the law should not remain in effect; states can overrule the 3 year grace period with their own legislation if they deem this appropriate. On July 30, 1999, the House Commerce Subcommittee on Health and Environment (Chairman Bilirakis, R-FL) held a hearing on H.R. 2634. A similar measure (S. 324) was introduced in the Senate on January 28, 1999, by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

S. 486 - Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 -- On August 5, 1999, S. 486 was reported to the Senate with an amendment in the nature of a substitute and without a written report by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The bill has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. S. 486 was introduced on February 25, 1999, by Senator John Ashcroft (R-MO) and, as reported, includes several provisions of interest to NIH. S. 486 would require the head of each department, agency, and establishment of the Federal Government to place anti-drug messages on appropriate Internet websites; require the Secretary, HHS, to submit annually to Congress a report on the problems caused by methamphetamine consumption, and the incidence of and treatment available for methamphetamine abuse; authorize the Office for Substance Abuse Prevention to carry out school-based programs regarding the dangers of abuse and addiction; authorize the Director, NIDA, to expand current and on-going interdisciplinary research and clinical trials with treatment centers of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network relating to methamphetamine abuse and addiction; require the Secretary, HHS, in consultation with the Institute of Medicine, to conduct a study on the development of medications for the treatment of addiction to methamphetamines; and waive the requirement for practitioners, who dispense narcotic drugs to individuals for maintenance or detoxification treatment, to annually obtain a separate registration for that purpose. The language of S. 324, The Drug Addiction Treatment Act, was swept into S. 486 during markup.

S. 883 - On April 27, 1999, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) introduced S. 883, the New Drugs of the 1990's Act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to authorize the Attorney General to schedule a substance in either Schedule I or II if she determines that the scheduling on a temporary basis is necessary to avoid "an imminent hazard to the public safety." The temporary scheduling would be in effect "until a final order becomes effective." The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

S. 885 - On April 27, 1999, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) introduced S. 885, the New Medications to Treat Addiction Act of 1999. The bill would amend Section 464P(e) of the PHS Act to reauthorize NIDA's Medications Development Program through the year 2002. It also includes provisions to encourage private sector development of drugs to treat cocaine and heroin addiction. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S. 976 - On May 6, 1999, Sen. William Frist (R-TN) introduced The Youth Drug and Mental Health Services Act, which authorizes SAMHSA and introduces some new youth-related programs. On July 28, 1999 the bill was ordered reported by the full Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee with an amendment in the nature of a substitute. Under the bill SAMHSA would end the practice of requiring states to expend a certain portion of federal funds on specified programs, but states would be required to file more comprehensive progress reports. The bill also would set up grant programs under SAMHSA to support: youth and adolescent substance abuse prevention and treatment initiatives; mental health initiatives designed to combat teen violence; mental health and substance abuse programs for the homeless; emergency funds for mental health and substance abuse needs; and treatment services for juvenile delinquents. The bill did not include a provision that would have permitted blending of substance abuse and mental health block grant funds without accountability for the purpose of servicing individuals diagnosed with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. Instead the bill restated current law. The Committee amended the bill by adopting a charitable choice provision that permits religious organizations to receive federal funds to provide alcohol and drug treatment and prevention services. The Senate is expected to vote on final passage of the bill before the end of the session.

S. 1447 - On July 28, 1999, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) introduced the Fairness in Treatment: The Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery Act of 1999. The bill would require private insurance plans to cover alcohol and drug treatment on par with physical health services. The bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. On August 5, 1999, Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) introduced S. Res. 177, a resolution to designate September, 1999, as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. The resolution passed the Senate on the same day.

S. 1507 - On August 5, 1999, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) introduced S. 1507, the Native American Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Consolidation Act of 1999. This bill would require the Secretary of the Interior, in cooperation with specified Federal agencies (including NIH), to authorize an Indian tribe to coordinate and consolidate Federally funded alcohol and substance abuse programs. According to Senator Campbell=s introductory remarks, funds available through NIH and NIAAA include several different grant programs for minorities and the prevention of alcohol abuse that could be integrated with other programs into a single program. S. 1507 was referred to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

S. 1561 - On August 5, 1999, Senator Spencer Abraham (R-MI) introduced S. 1561, the Date Rape Control Act of 1999, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act to require the Attorney General to add gamma hydroxybutyric acid to Schedule I and ketamine to Schedule III. It also would require the Secretary of HHS to submit to Congress reports on the number of incidents of the abuse of date-rape drugs that occurred in the most recent 1 year period, and to develop a plan, in consultation with the Attorney General, for carrying out a national campaign to educate the public on the dangers of date-rape drugs. Finally, the Secretary of HHS would be required to establish an advisory committee to make recommendations to the Secretary on issues related to date rape. S. 1561 was referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Other Events

September 15-18, 1999 -- At the request of the American Psychological Association, Lula Beatty, Chief, Special Populations Office, NIDA, and Charlene Woodard, Office of Science Policy and Communications, NIDA, will participate as panel members for the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Conference. They have been asked to speak on the relationship between depression and substance abuse in African Americans.

(Congress in recess August 7- September 7)

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