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April 1, 2010
NIDA Director, Dr. Nora D. Volkow

This Director’s message has been adapted from NIDA NOTES (Volume 23, Number 1 - April 2010).

Every day, the Nation's primary care and family physicians see patients whose use of addictive substances causes them problems. Too often, physicians cannot appropriately diagnose and treat those problems because the patients do not disclose their substance abuse. Patients' fear of revealing sensitive and potentially stigmatizing information and the omission of the topic of addiction in many physician training programs lead to suboptimal medical care.

To remedy this situation, NIDA has developed NIDAMED, the Institute's first comprehensive Physicians' Outreach Initiative. NIDAMED aims to integrate screening and treatment for the disease of addiction with mainstream medical care. A toolkit developed by NIDAMED guides doctors in assessing a patient's risk of developing an addiction problem, advising patients on the health effects of substance abuse and, if needed, arranging a referral to specialty care. The toolkit contains:

  • NIDA-Modified Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (NM-ASSIST) - This evidence-based instrument, available on an interactive Web site or in print, guides clinicians through a brief screening interview about use of addictive substances, including illicit drugs, prescription drugs taken for nonmedical purposes, tobacco, and alcohol.
  • Clinician's Resource Guide - This accompanying online guide presents clinicians with more detailed instructions, directions on how to access further information on substance abuse, and comprehensive referral resources.
  • Screening Tool Quick Reference Guide - This pocket-size resource summarizes the screening tool, risk levels, and followup actions.
  • Patient Information Card and Poster - These handouts for physicians' waiting rooms encourage patients to "Tell Your Doctors About All the Drugs You Use" to get the best care and also offers Web links to more information.

Another critical component of NIDAMED is outreach to medical students, residents, and those who train them. Through a partnership with eight medical schools around the country, NIDA's Centers of Excellence for Physician Information provide innovative, science-based curriculum resources on substance abuse, addiction, and their health consequences.

Doctors can access the new tools at by clicking on the NIDAMED icon. The Institute also recently updated Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, which summarizes more than three decades of research. In addition, a poster that encourages patients to disclose their drug use is available by calling 1-877-NIDA-NIH. NIDA is collaborating with the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, Food and Drug Administration to place the poster in health clinics throughout the Nation.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D.