August 12, 2015

June 12–15, 2015
Phoenix, Arizona

More than 200 participants from 45 countries participated in the 20th Annual National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Forum, which was held June 12–15, 2015, in Phoenix, Arizona. NIDA International Program Director Steven W. Gust, Ph.D., chaired the meeting. A joint College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD)/NIDA International Forum poster session featured presentations on international research by 136 scientists from the United States and 43 other countries.

Susan Weiss, Ph.D., director, NIDA Division of Extramural Research, reviewed developments, priorities, and opportunities in NIDA’s research portfolio, noting that when adjusted for inflation, the Institute’s appropriated funding is unchanged from 1999 levels and one-third of the budget is devoted to drug-related HIV/AIDS research. She introduced multidisciplinary initiatives, including precision medicine, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies project, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development national longitudinal study, and the opioid initiative to improve prescribing practices and expand the use of naloxone and medication-assisted treatment. Dr. Weiss also reviewed recent NIDA-supported research findings on marijuana, research priorities for drug-related HIV/AIDS, new foci on improving reproducibility of results and access to data, and the 2016–2020 NIDA strategic plan.

International Programs on Substance Abuse and Addiction

Representatives of U.S. and international organizations described programs that support addiction research, prevention, and treatment around the world. Brian A. Morales, M.A., U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), described efforts to professionalize the international prevention and treatment workforce and service delivery systems. INL and its international partners are mapping treatment capacity in 44 African, Asian, and Latin American countries and will post the data online. Mr. Morales also discussed universal treatment and prevention curricula and credentialing exams, and invited universities to disseminate the training programs. A newly launched professional society will promote professionalization by publicizing training and credentialing programs, providing evidence-based resources and treatment mapping data, and hosting discussion forums. Details are available on the International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Professionals website.

Anja Busse, M.S., M.P.H., United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), reviewed global prevention and treatment training projects, such as international standards, guidelines for implementing interventions, and technical tools. Pilot project components include advocacy and policy support, assessment and data collection, evaluation, capacity building, and intervention development. Ms. Busse also described forthcoming projects on access to pain medication, drug use disorders training for policymakers, and a December 2015 technical seminar on prevention and treatment.

Nita Lalla Roncone, M.S.W., U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), told participants that the United States and other countries have much to learn from one another in addressing the shared global responsibility to reduce demand for drugs. She described how ONDCP efforts in 109 partner nations promote policy changes that accept the humanity of people who use drugs by focusing on adoption of evidence-based drug policies and treatment interventions, particularly vulnerable populations. Ms. Roncone concluded by thanking participants for “doing the work that is changing drug policies.”

Vladimir Poznyak, M.D., Ph.D., World Health Organization (WHO), summarized the many WHO guidelines, tools, and activities available to develop and implement evidence-based drug abuse interventions. He thanked NIDA-supported researchers for leading efforts to develop the WHO Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders in Pregnancy and Community Management of Opioid Overdose. Dr. Poznyak noted that an October 2015 meeting will focus on the role of substance use in suicide, and that WHO is updating the 2010 Atlas on Substance Use with data from nearly every country about policies and resources for substance abuse treatment. He also invited Forum attendees to participate in field and clinical testing for the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases to improve the feasibility, clinical utility, validity, reliability, compatibility, and comparability of this clinical diagnostic tool.

Igor Koutsenok, M.D., M.S., UNODC, described the Informal International Scientific Network, which UNODC and WHO launched to address the United Nations’ challenges in bridging the gap between addiction science, implementation, and policies. He noted that the 2016 United Nations General Assembly General Session on Drugs (UNGASS) will have long-lasting consequences for global drug policies, and that the goal of the network is to make scientific evidence available and accessible to UNGASS delegates.

Awards of Excellence

NIDA International Awards of Excellence, which recognize individuals for outstanding contributions to international cooperation in drug abuse research and training, were presented for:

  • Excellence in mentoring, to Robert E. Booth, Ph.D., University of Colorado, for his work encouraging others to investigate addictions and mentoring Ukrainian colleagues testing community- and network-based interventions among people living with HIV and those who inject drugs.
  • Excellence in international leadership, to Viviana Elizabeth Horigian, M.D., University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, for her work establishing research teams modeled on the NIDA Clinical Trials Network in Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico.
  • Excellence in collaborative research, to Hendrée E Jones, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, and Gabriele Fischer, Ph.D., Medical University of Vienna, Austria, for their work investigating buprenorphine as a treatment medication for pregnant women and serving on the Guidelines Development Group for the 2014 WHO Guidelines for the Identification and Management of Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders in Pregnancy.

NIDA International Forum 20th Anniversary

Dr. Gust reviewed the history and accomplishments of the NIDA International Forum, noting that the first meeting in 1996 attracted 65 participants representing 21 countries, with only 15 poster presentations. He reported on ways the Forum has achieved its objectives, including:

  • Promote international collaborative research: More than 20 multinational research teams established or enhanced at the Forum have received NIDA research grants for work in 9 nations (Australia, Austria, China, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, South Africa, and Tanzania).
  • Encourage peer-reviewed publications: In addition to International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE) workshops, Forum participants and working groups have prepared webinars, published articles, and produced three peer-reviewed journal supplements.
  • Build international research capacity through networking, professional development activities, workshops, the poster session, and the WHO/NIDA/CPDD International Traveling Fellowship.
  • Foster international research networks, such as informal networks based on region or research topic or formal networks such as Red Latinoamericana de Investigadores en Drogas (REDLA), the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AA/PI) Researchers and Scholars Work Group, and the International Women’s and Children’s Health and Gender Working Group (InWomen’s). InWomen’s grew out of Forum sessions in 2008 and 2010; it now has more than 250 members, maintains an annotated bibliography of women-focused research, and has organized its own CPDD satellite since 2010.
  • Advance evidence-based policies and programs, such as clinical trials; screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment; drug treatment as HIV prevention, and sessions at the 2009 and 2010 Forums that played a seminal role in the development of the 2014 WHO guidelines for treating substance use in pregnant women.
  • Convene global expertise by inviting speakers and cosponsors from a wide variety of agencies focused on substance abuse policies, research, prevention, and treatment. 

Dr. Gust thanked 17 “pioneers” who attended both the 1996 and 2015 Forums for their generosity in helping junior scientists build international research careers. He also acknowledged his predecessor at the NIDA International Program, M. Patricia Needle, Ph.D., who chaired the first Forum, and Ivan D. Montoya, M.D., M.P.H, deputy director of the NIDA Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse, who as a former Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, chaired the international organizing committee for the 1996 meeting.

During the international networking session on Friday, June 12, NIDA International Program Associate Director Dale S. Weiss chaired a panel discussion by Forum participants who discussed how the meeting affected their careers in drug abuse. The panelists included Zulvia Syarif, M.D., University of Indonesia; Silvia L. Cruz, Ph.D., Cinvestav, Mexico; Bronwyn Myers, Ph.D., M. Soc. Sci., South African Medical Research Council; and Valeriy Ryabukha, L.L.M., “Choice” Prevention Center, Ukraine.

During the discussion, Dr. Poznyak of WHO noted that the NIDA International Forum is unique in creating opportunities for scientists of different generations to interact, learn, mentor, and participate in a poster session that includes highly qualified researchers from around the world. Marya Hynes, M.H.S., Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) at the Organization of American States, agreed, saying that many of CICAD’s important initiatives began from networking at the Forum. Robert L. Balster, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), a speaker at the 1996 meeting and a past president of CPDD, noted that CPDD had benefitted greatly from the increased participation of international researchers attracted to the larger scientific meeting by the NIDA International Forum.

Poster Session Award

Jan Copeland, Ph.D., Australia, chair of the CPDD International Committee, announced that CPDD had created a new award for scientists from low- and middle-income (LMI) countries who present research conducted in an LMI country at the joint NIDA International Forum/CPDD International Research Poster Session. The author of the best poster, as determined by CPDD judges, receives three nights lodging at the conference hotel for either the 2016 or 2017 meetings. The judges selected a poster by Irma Kirtadze, M.D., Republic of Georgia, “Comprehensive women-centered treatment for substance use in Georgia: Initial examination of drug use and HIV risk.”

Networking, Publishing, and Breakout Sessions

Ms. Weiss and J. Randy Koch, Ph.D., VCU, co-chaired the international networking session. Jane Maxwell, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, reviewed the rapidly increasing numbers and types of novel psychoactive substances. She described data sources available to monitor novel psychoactive drug trends, such as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Forensic Laboratory Information System, DEA Special Testing and Research Laboratory, NIDA, and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Jack Stein, Ph.D., director of the NIDA Office of Science Policy and Communication, described the Institute’s National Drug Facts Week, which engages teens and communities in school- and community-based discussions about the impact of drug abuse. Mohammed Elhamshary, M.D., M.Sc., 2014–2015 NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellow, described how he and Egyptian colleagues successfully introduced National Drug Facts Week in their country using NIDA materials.

Earlier on June 12, ISAJE members conducted a workshop on preparing research publications. Tom McGovern, Ed.D., Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and editor-in-chief of The Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, and Richard Saitz, M.D., M.P.H., Boston University School of Public Health and senior editor of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, discussed selecting a journal, preparing manuscripts for submission, making editorial decisions, responding to reviewers, revising and resubmitting a manuscript, and issues that arise after a paper is accepted for publication. They also reviewed authorship credits, plagiarism, conflicts of interest, methodological reporting guidelines, open access, predatory journals, and appropriate language and terminology.

Four breakout sessions on June 13 explored aspects of addiction treatment in more depth:

  • Global Traumatic Events and Substance Use—Richard Rawson, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, and Richard Isralowitz, Ph.D., Ben Gurion University, Israel, co-chaired the session, which featured reports on substance use patterns, problems, policies, and intervention strategies from researchers working in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Ukraine. During the session, the NIDA International Program recognized Dr. Isralowitz and his colleagues for their work in areas where conflict and traumatic conditions are common.
  • Implementation Science and Evidence-Based Treatments in Latin America: International Collaboration Challenges and Opportunities—Latin American researchers, providers, and administrators discussed: (1) advantages and disadvantages of developing or adapting interventions proven in other countries; (2) current implementation practices and research in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and other countries; and (3) strategies, facilitators, and barriers to implementing evidence-based interventions. Carmen Rosa, M.S., NIDA Center for the Clinical Trials Network, and Petra Jacobs, M.D., Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil, Ecuador, co-chaired the session.
  • Ten Years of International Research Collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean—CICAD organized this session, which featured presentations on advances and challenges for research and interventions conducted in Latin American and Caribbean countries in collaboration with the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), CICAD, and NIDA. Ms. Hynes of CICAD and Akwatu Khenti, Ph.D., CAMH, co-chaired the session.
  • NIDA AIDS and Addiction Research in Vietnam—Yu “Woody” Lin, NIDA Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, chaired this session, where presenters reported on capacity-building efforts and outcomes from NIDA-supported research to prevent and treat drug-related HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. Participants also explored the role NIDA’s Asian American/Pacific Islander (AA/PI) Researchers and Scholars Work Group could play in promoting global health through international collaboration on interdisciplinary and translational drug abuse research.