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NIDA. (1996, October 1). NIDA Holds Conference on Drug Abuse at Annual APA Convention. Retrieved from

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October 01, 1996
Michael Mueller

In an effort to more broadly disseminate its state-of-the-science research and attract new investigators to the field, NIDA shared its research agenda and latest findings with clinicians, researchers, educators, policy and planning professionals, and graduate students at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual convention in Toronto in August.

"We organized the Conference on Drug Abuse (CODA) to promote an exchange between drug abuse researchers and the community of research psychologists and behavioral scientists," said Dr. Meyer D. Glantz, NIDA's associate director for science in the Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research and chair of the CODA Steering Committee. NIDA and the APA Science Directorate cosponsored the 5-day conference, which was held in conjunction with the APA convention. The links between psychology/behavioral science and drug abuse research were emphasized throughout CODA. (See Professional Exchanges Strengthen Drug Abuse Research, Prevention, and Treatment)

Conference participants
Conference participantsSnapshots from the conference

"Psychological research is playing a critical role in the majority of NIDA's priority areas, including neuroscience, behavioral science, protective/resilience factors, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and HIV infection and AIDS," said NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner. However, there are still many other areas of drug abuse research in which research psychologists can make significant contributions, he emphasized.

For example, treatment providers often encounter patients with comorbid mental illnesses. "Many drug abusers have psychological disorders, and many people coming for psychological care have substance abuse problems," said Dr. Timothy P. Condon, director of NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications and cochair of the CODA Steering Committee. "The exchange of scientific information and ideas about patients with a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and one or more psychological disorders may help to encourage new treatment insights," he said.

"CODA was a great success because many people were committed to it," said Dr. Christine Hartel, APA assistant executive director for science and cochair of the CODA Steering Committee. "The conference increased the visibility of substance abuse research among psychologists, which also gave a boost to APA's Division 50, The Psychology of Addictive Behaviors," said Dr. Dwayne Simpson, director of the Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas Christian University.

CODA included a variety of symposia, workshops, poster sessions, and special events. These reflected the broad range of research supported by NIDA, including neurobiology, psychopathology, treatment, and prevention research. Many issues were addressed, including new ways to develop and disseminate models of treatment.

During the conference, a series of keynote addresses provided an overview of NIDA-supported research and issues of central concern to the Institute. Among these was the keynote address presented by Dr. Marsha Linehan, professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle. She urged researchers to rethink assumptions and to consider carefully the goals that a particular treatment targets. "We all need to be trying to make our treatments better," she said. Dr. Linehan offered a model for developing new treatments that emphasizes the generation of ideas, standardization of staff training plans and outcome measures, pilot testing, validation of treatment effectiveness, and dissemination to service providers.

"Preventing drug use among young people is not just a matter of teaching kids how to say 'no,' we also must teach them how to identify and avoid high-risk situations," said Dr. Gilbert J. Botvin, director of the Institute for Prevention Research at Cornell University Medical College in New York, in his keynote address. "Our Life Skills Training Program provides kids with skills needed to maneuver through the mine fields of adolescence," he said.

Dr. Robert L. Balster, director of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, spoke about abuse of inhalants. "There's a great lack of scientific attention to inhalant abuse, which is more common in all age groups than the use of cocaine and heroin," said Dr. Balster.

"We organized the Conference on Drug Abuse to promote an exchange between drug abuse researchers and the community of research psychologists and behavioral scientists.

"Experiences relating to ethnicity, racism, and oppression have been overlooked among the social factors that influence substance abuse among ethnic minority women," said keynote speaker Dr. Kathy Sanders-Phillips, director of the Violence and Social Policy Institute at the King/Drew Medical Center at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. For example, ethnic minority women are less likely to participate in a health program if they perceive that the health services providers are treating them in a disrespectful manner because of their race. Further, in a study at King/Drew Medical Center, researchers found that exposure to community and domestic violence was a significant predictor of women's drug abuse.

Other keynote speakers included Dr. George Koob, director of the Division of Psychopharmacology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who presented an overview of the neurobiology of addiction; Dr. George De Leon, director of the NIDA-supported Center for Therapeutic Community Research in New York City, who discussed the application of the therapeutic community approach to research and practice; and Dr. Dante Ciccetti, professor in the departments of psychology, psychiatry, and pediatrics at the University of Rochester in New York, who delivered a presentation on the psychopathology perspective of drug abuse.

Dr. Aaron T. Beck, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, delivered an invited address. Dr. Beck, spoke about adapting the model of cognitive therapy- - a form of therapy directed at a person's dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs - -to addictions. "Drug users hold many drug-related beliefs, and the better we understand those patterns of thinking, the more likely we are to see where we can effectively intervene," said Dr. Beck.

A symposium cochaired by NIDA Director Dr. Leshner and Dr. Steven W. Gust, acting director of NIDA's Office on AIDS, addressed changing HIV/AIDS risk behaviors among drug abusers. At the session, Dr. Clyde McCoy, director of the NIDA Health Services Research Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, discussed preliminary findings from Miami CARES (Community AIDS Research and Education Studies), one of 23 NIDA-funded HIV prevention sites. "We can change injection practices, rates of sharing needles and syringes, frequency of condom use, and number of sex partners and, at the same time, decrease drug use," said Dr. McCoy.

Research psychologists

Research psychologists
CODA provided numerous opportunities for drug abuse researchers, research psychologists, and behavioral scientists to exchange scientific information and discuss treatment issues

Dr. Zili Sloboda, director of NIDA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research (DEPR), conducted a CODA special event that focused on the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) on Drug Abuse, an early warning system designed to detect new drug abuse problems and shifts in drug use patterns in 20 U.S. cities as well as several foreign cities, including Toronto. "We face a constantly changing kaleidoscope of drug abuse patterns that can impact community prevention and treatment services," said Dr. Sloboda. It is important to be "ahead of the curve" for these changes; "CEWG allows us to do that," Dr. Sloboda said.

Dr. Lula Beatty, chief of NIDA's Special Populations Office, coordinated a hospitality suite meeting directed at drug abuse research needs in minority communities and research development opportunities for minority and women students and researchers. The Special Populations Office also cohosted a hospitality suite meeting with the Division 40 APA Committee on Minority/Ethnic Affairs in Neuropsychology. The meeting was coordinated by Dr. Tony Strickland, chair of the committee and associate director of the Biobehavioral Research Center at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Dr. Strickland discussed issues and concerns relating to cross-cultural understandings and the validity of instruments used in neuropsychological research involving racial and ethnic groups.

"The conference provided a unique opportunity to learn from each other and to stimulate new research," said Dr. Leshner. Collaborative endeavors promote better understanding of addiction and drug-seeking behavior and aid in the development of effective new treatments, he added.