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Communities That Care System Helps Prevent Problem Behaviors in Youth Through 12th Grade

Prevention, Published December 2014

Extending the prevention interventions to target risk factors through the high school years could strengthen effects on substance use and delinquent behaviors on the cusp of adulthood.

Varenicline Helps People With Mental Illness Maintain Abstinence From Smoking

Treatment, Published November 2014

The finding from an 18-month-long clinical trial strengthens hope that pharmacotherapy can break nicotine’s especially tenacious hold on people with serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Study Assesses Functional Deficits Due to HIV and Methamphetamine Use

Basic Science, Published November 2014

Methamphetamine use and HIV infection raise the risk for functional dependence, or the need for assistance with everyday tasks. People who use methamphetamine and are HIV positive showed the highest levels of functional dependence in most domains of daily life.

Animation: The Rise and Fall of the Cocaine High

Basic Science, Published November 2014

This animation shows the rapid passage of cocaine through the brain. It demonstrates that the intensity of the cocaine “high” parallels the trajectory of cocaine levels in the brain.

Smoking Cessation Does Not Interfere With Recovery From Substance Use

Public Health, Published October 2014

Despite common concerns that encouraging patients to quit smoking might endanger their success in treatment of substance use and mood or anxiety disorders, smoking cessation appears unlikely to hinder and may even help recovery.

Dr. Kevin M. Gray Q & A: A Potential Medication for Marijuana Dependence

Treatment, Published October 2014

Dr. Kevin M. Gray discusses why it’s the perfect time for discovering new evidence-based treatments for marijuana dependence. In an accompanying podcast, he discusses a clinical trial that examines NAC’s potential as a treatment for marijuana dependence among adults.

A Genetic Nexus of Obesity and Smoking

Basic Science, Published October 2014

Research shows that some gene variants that influence body mass index also shape smoking behaviors.

New Approach Uses Immune Cells To Deliver Anti-HIV Medications

Treatment, Published October 2014

Nano-antiretroviral therapy (nano-ART) turns macrophages—one of the very cell types that HIV uses to replicate and spread through the body—into carriers for anti-HIV medications. The approach has the potential to make treatment for HIV easier and more effective.

Student-Scientists Present Award-Winning Research at NIDA

Bulletin Board, Published August 2014

Four high school students were honored for their work regarding e-cigarettes, the GABAA neuroreceptor, and adolescent multitasking.

Training Workshops Boost Approval of Contingency Management

Treatment, Published August 2014

Clinicians associated with the Veterans Administration looked more favorably upon contingency management after attending training workshops on the use of the intervention. Despite being highly effective at decreasing drug use, contingency management is one of the least used among proven substance abuse treatments.

Self-Control Protects Urban Minority Youths From Drug Use and Depressive Mood

Public Health, Published July 2014

Interventions that bolster self-control in childhood and early adolescence might shield ethnic and racial minority adolescents and young adults from the burden of both drug use and depressive mood.

Among High School Seniors, Driving After Marijuana Use Surpasses Drunk Driving

Public Health, Published July 2014

Within the 2 weeks prior to responding to a nationwide survey, 28 percent of high school seniors were in a vehicle whose driver had been using marijuana or another illicit drug, or had drunk 5 or more alcoholic drinks.

Dr. Antonello Bonci Q & A: Lighting Up the Brain To Shut Down Cocaine Seeking

Basic Science, Published July 2014

The Scientific Director of NIDA’s Intramural Research Program talks about switching off animals’ compulsive cocaine seeking by optogenetically activating the prefrontal cortex, and the implications of this work for people. In an accompanying podcast, Dr. Bonci walks viewers through experiments that showed that prefrontal cortex activity levels may constitute a simple switch controlling whether or not animals compulsively seek cocaine.

Gene Variants Reduce Opioid Risks

Basic Science, Published June 2014

Two recent studies suggest that genotyping may enable clinicians to base therapies on individual patients’ potential responsiveness to opioid drugs’ therapeutic effects and vulnerability to their harmful effects.

New Insight Into How Cues Cause Relapse to Cocaine

Basic Science, Published May 2014

A brain response occurs in the nucleus accumbens when rats encounter a cue that they associate with previous cocaine self-administration, but not a cue associated with a pleasurable non-drug experience. Moreover, the response correlates in time and intensity with the animals’ cue-induced relapse to cocaine-seeking.

Device Detects Marijuana in Breath Hours After Smoking

Basic Science, Published May 2014

Driving under the influence of marijuana is a dangerous public health concern. NIDA researchers have discovered that breath expelled into a Breathalyzer-style collection device contained measurable amounts of THC for up to 2 hours after participants in a recent clinical trial smoked the drug.

Although Relatively Few, “Doctor Shoppers” Skew Opioid Prescribing

Public Health, Published May 2014

One out of every 143 U.S. patients who received a prescription for an opioid painkiller in 2008 obtained prescriptions from multiple physicians in a pattern that suggests misuse or abuse of the drugs.

Dr. Joni Rutter Q&A: How Basic Science Is Tackling Addiction

NIDA @ Work, Published May 2014

One of NIDA’s goals is to try to understand the individual differences that contribute to whether or not someone who takes a drug will become addicted to it. Dr. Rutter’s research focuses on three types of differences: Environmental, developmental, and genetic and epigenetic.

Marijuana Use May Promote Nicotine Consumption

Basic Science, Published April 2014

Exposing rats to THC increases the likelihood that the animals will later self-administer nicotine. THC-exposed rats are also willing to work harder to obtain nicotine. When extrapolated to people, the findings suggest that THC’s pharmacological impact on the brain may make a person who uses marijuana more vulnerable to developing nicotine addiction, an underappreciated health consequence of marijuana use.

In Nationwide Survey, More Students Use Marijuana, Fewer Use Other Drugs

Public Health, Published April 2014

Almost one-third (32 percent) of the roughly 42,000 Monitoring the Future survey respondents reported having used marijuana during their lifetime. However, abuse of many other drugs—methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and some prescription medications—declined.

Expanded HIV Screening Projected To Decrease Spread of the Virus

Prevention, Published April 2014

Intensified screening for HIV among injection drug users receiving opioid agonist therapy could prevent more than twice as many new infections as current screening practice. A recent study based on mathematical modeling found that screening every 6 months instead of annually, and adding viral RNA testing to the currently used HIV antibody testing, could improve both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Study: Treat Jail Detainees’ Drug Abuse To Lower HIV Transmission

Treatment, Published March 2014

Active drug use before incarceration was associated with decreased engagement in HIV treatment among HIV-infected jail detainees. The severity of drug dependence correlated with worsening measures of engagement in HIV treatment. The study concludes that evidence-based treatment for drug abuse in jails may result in improved HIV treatment outcomes, which in turn could help slow HIV-transmission rates in the United States.

Methamphetamine Alters Brain Structures, Impairs Mental Flexibility

Basic Science, Published March 2014

Methamphetamine alters brain structures involved in decision-making and impairs the ability to suppress habitual behaviors that have become useless or counterproductive. The two effects were correlated, indicating that the structural change underlies the decline in mental flexibility.

Microneedle Milestone: One Week of Transdermal Drug Delivery

Treatment, Published March 2014

Microneedles are an innovative technique for delivering medications through the skin, a route that could particularly benefit patients receiving naltrexone therapy for opioid and alcohol dependence. Researchers have found a way to use the transdermal technique to deliver a single treatment of naltrexone that lasts for 7 days.

California Reaped Large Savings by Diverting Drug-Using Offenders Into Treatment

Treatment, Published February 2014

California’s Proposition 36, which allows qualified drug offenders to enter substance use treatment rather than go to jail or prison, saved the state close to $100 million in its first year.

Intervention Strengthens American Indian Teen Mothers’ Parenting

Prevention, Published February 2014

Teen mothers on three American Indian reservations improved on several measures of parenting after participating in Family Spirit, a home-visiting intervention developed with NIDA support. At 12 months postpartum, the women’s children exhibited reduced rates of emotional difficulties predicting later drug abuse and other behavioral problems. Infants at highest risk—those whose mothers had histories of drug abuse—benefited the most.

Stress-Induced Enzyme Compounds Methamphetamine Neurotoxicity

Basic Science, Published January 2014

Ketoprofen, an anti-inflammatory agent commonly prescribed to treat arthritis, reduces neuronal damage in rats that have been exposed to chronic stress and methamphetamine. If this finding of a recent NIDA-supported study extrapolates to humans, anti-inflammatory medications may gain a place in the treatment of methamphetamine addiction.

HIV Infection Accelerates Hepatitis C–Related Liver Fibrosis

Treatment, Published January 2014

Study patients with HIV­­–hepatitis C coinfection progressed to successive degrees of severity of liver fibrosis 9 years sooner than those infected with HCV alone. Further findings from the study suggest that suppressing HIV with antiretroviral medications may slow HCV-related liver fibrosis.

Prefrontal Cortex Stimulation Stops Compulsive Drug Seeking in Rats

Basic Science, Published January 2014

Researchers have shut down laboratory rats’ compulsive cocaine seeking by stimulating an area of the animals’ prefrontal cortex. The finding raises the possibility that stimulating neurons in this brain area may weaken or break cocaine’s grip on the behavior of people who are addicted to the drug.

American Researcher Dr. Charles O’Brien Knighted by French Government

Bulletin Board, Published January 2014

NIDA grantee Dr. O’Brien was honored for his “exemplary personal commitment to French‒American relations as symbolized by … exceptional cooperation in science and in public health.”

Dr. Evan D. Kharasch Joins the Institute of Medicine

Bulletin Board, Published December 2013

Dr. Kharasch is a NIDA-funded researcher known for a broad range of research into how drugs are metabolized in the body.

Medications That Treat Opioid Addiction Do Not Impair Liver Health

Treatment, Published December 2013

A trial of buprenorphine/naloxone (Bup/Nx) showed no evidence that the medicine was associated with liver damage. The drug gave results similar to those of methadone. The study data indicate that although most patients can be treated safely with either methadone or Bup/Nx without major concern for liver injury, clinicians are advised to continue to monitor the liver health of their patients who are on methadone or Bup/Nx therapy.

Study Finds Genetic Influence on African Americans’ Smoking

Basic Science, Published November 2013

A meta-analysis of 13 genome-wide association studies of African Americans’ smoking patterns confirms the significance of genetic variation in region 15q25.1. The analysis also tentatively implicates several genome locations that have not previously been associated with smoking behaviors.

Naltrexone Implant Outperforms Daily Pill in Russian Trial

Treatment, Published November 2013

More than half of heroin-addicted patients treated with naltrexone via an implanted delivery device maintained abstinence throughout a 6-month clinical trial in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The implant device, which releases a steady dose of naltrexone continuously for 2 months, averted relapse to heroin use three times as effectively as daily oral doses of the medication.

Women Benefit From Policies to Prevent Teens From Buying Tobacco

Prevention, Published November 2013

Women who reached their majority in states with policies that restricted teens’ access to tobacco products were less likely to smoke from ages 18-34 than women in states without those policies. The research did not demonstrate that the policies had a comparable impact on men’s smoking.

NIDA Seeks Applications for Women and Sex/Gender Differences Junior Investigator Travel Awards for CPDD

Bulletin Board, Published November 2013

NIDA plans to provide $750 travel awards to 27 junior investigators to present their research on women or sex/gender differences in any area of drug abuse at the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 14‒19, 2014. Deadline to apply is December 2, 2013.

Study Parses Comorbidity of Cannabis Use and Social Anxiety

Public Health, Published October 2013

People with cannabis use disorder (CUD) are likely also to have social anxiety disorder (SAD), and comorbid SAD is associated with greater severity of cannabis-related problems. These findings highlight the importance of assessing CUD patients for SAD, as that disorder can be both a contributing cause and a consequence of CUD. Treating both disorders may be a key to helping patients recover from each.

Dr. Marilyn Huestis Q & A: Matching Drug Effects to Drug Concentrations

NIDA @ Work, Published September 2013

Dr. Marilyn Huestis of NIDA’s Intramural Research Program talks about conducting research on drug effects with human subjects, developing tests to help law enforcement identify drugged drivers, and an assay to help identify children whose prenatal exposure to anti-HIV drugs may put them at risk for adverse developmental outcomes.

Stimulants in “Bath Salts” Produce Effects Similar to MDMA

Basic Science, Published August 2013

Mephedrone and methylone, two stimulants commonly found in designer drugs such as “bath salts,” act on the brain much like MDMA (Ecstasy).

Early-Onset, Regular Cannabis Use Is Linked to IQ Decline

Prevention, Published August 2013

Regular cannabis use that starts in adolescence strips away IQ, a NIDA-supported study suggests. Participants who initiated weekly cannabis use before age 18 dropped IQ points in proportion to how long they persisted in using the drug. Persistent cannabis users’ cognitive difficulties were evident to friends and family and measurable on a battery of tests.

Male Rats’ Cocaine Exposure Affects Their Offspring’s Drug Responses

Basic Science, Published August 2013

In a surprising finding, male rats who used cocaine sired male offspring who later exhibited blunted responses to the drug. Researchers determined the cause was an epigenetic alteration.

Study Pinpoints Cognitive Deficits Due to Cocaine, Finds Potential for Recovery

Basic Science, Published August 2013

New research demonstrated that, in rhesus monkeys, ongoing cocaine exposure weakens two brain functions that people require for successful behavioral change: cognitive flexibility and memory. But the study determined that these changes may not be permanent.

Problem Behaviors Can Signal Risk in Prescribing Opioids to Teens

Public Health, Published July 2013

Researchers found that 1 in 8 high school seniors had used a prescription opioid nonmedically, and 70 percent of these teens had compounded the attendant risk by co-ingesting an opioid with one or more other drugs. Nonmedical opioid use was significantly more prevalent among whites than among African Americans or Hispanics.

After Release, Jail Inmates’ Substance Use Patterns Relate to Their Choice of Friends

Prevention, Published July 2013

When the goal is to avoid using alcohol and illicit substances after being released from jail, it’s who one’s friends are that counts most. Self-control is important because it helps a person have the right kind of friends.

NIDA Advisory Council Welcomes Two New Members

Bulletin Board, Published May 2013

The National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse introduced two new members at its May 2013 meeting. 

Oxycodone Vaccine Passes Early Tests

Treatment, Published May 2013

A new vaccine hindered the often-abused prescription opioids oxycodone and hydrocodone from entering the brain and suppressed one of the drugs’ signature central nervous system effects. The findings warrant continued development of the vaccine as a potential aid in the treatment of oxycodone and hydrocodone abuse and dependence.

Receptor May Underlie Gender Differences in Response to Smoking Cessation

Treatment, Published May 2013

Men benefit more than women from nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation because nicotine affects a key neuroreceptor differently in the two sexes, a NIDA-sponsored study suggests. The findings highlight the need for alternative therapies for women smokers, and point to the female hormone progesterone as a potential therapeutic target.

Counselors’ Perceptions of Organizational Justice and Support Predict Job Turnover

Treatment, Published May 2013

Forty-seven percent of substance abuse treatment counselors in a national sample left their jobs voluntarily within 3 years.

Study Endorses Onsite HIV Testing Without Risk Reduction Counseling

Prevention, Published April 2013

Patients were more likely to take a rapid HIV test when substance abuse treatment programs offered the test onsite rather than referred for offsite testing. Patients were equally likely to accept and learn their HIV status whether the offer of onsite testing was accompanied by 30 minutes of risk reduction counseling or by 5 minutes of brief information on the testing procedure. Onsite testing accompanied by brief information was cost effective, taking into account the projected lifetime costs of treatment and the gains in health and longevity for detected cases.

Gabapentin Tested To Treat Marijuana Dependence

Treatment, Published April 2013

Marijuana-dependent outpatients who were treated with the medication gabapentin in a pilot clinical trial reduced their cannabis use more and reported fewer symptoms of drug withdrawal than patients who received a placebo.

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