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NIDA. (1998, July 1). Bulletin Board. Retrieved from

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July 01, 1998

Child Psychopathology and Drug Abuse

Many childhood psychiatric disorders are strongly associated with subsequent substance abuse, participants at a NIDA meeting have concluded. However, a causal role remains to be established. Furthermore, because other biological and environmental influences can increase or reduce the risk of drug abuse, the mere existence of a specific psychiatric disorder does not predestine a child to later drug abuse, the meeting participants stressed.

NIDA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research (DEPR) held the meeting to explore the relationship between childhood psychological disorders and drug abuse last summer in Gaithersburg, Maryland. At the meeting, which was conducted by

Dr. Meyer Glantz and Dr. Naimah Weinberg of DEPR, researchers from the psychopathology, child development, and drug abuse fields worked to develop a consensus about common features of childhood psychopathologies that may increase a person's risk for drug abuse.

Key points and possible areas for future research include:

  • Conduct disorder and anxiety disorders are more clearly associated than other disorders with later drug abuse; bipolar (manic depressive) disorder may constitute a risk factor; depression in the presence of another disorder may increase risk; some subtypes of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may also increase risk; learning disabilities and language disorders merit further study.
  • The coexistence of more than one childhood psychiatric disorder greatly increases the risk for later drug abuse.
  • Children with a disorder that is less common among members of their gender - for example, girls with conduct disorder or boys with depression - are at greater risk for drug abuse.

NIDA is soliciting further research on the relationship between childhood psychopathology and drug abuse through an emphasis statement published in the January 16, 1998, NIH Guide. This emphasis statement amends NIDA's Program Announcement on Research on Origins and Pathways to Drug Abuse (PA #97-043). NIDA's Origins and Pathways Workgroup also is planning a meeting to examine whether mental health interventions for children with psychopathologic conditions alter the risks of later drug abuse. A summary of the meeting on Child Psychopathology Risk Factors for Drug Abuse: Features and Mechanisms.

Dr. Frascella Heads NIDA's Etiology and Clinical Neurobiology Branch

Dr. Joseph FrascellaDr. Joseph Frascella

In recent years, rapidly evolving brain imaging technologies opened the door for scientists to study the living human brain in clinical settings. To take full advantage of this opportunity, NIDA established an Etiology and Clinical Neurobiology Branch in the Division of Clinical and Services Research and appointed Dr. Joseph Frascella to head the Branch.

As Branch chief, Dr. Frascella directs a national program involving a broad portfolio of studies seeking to increase understanding of the neurobiological, genetic, and neurobehavioral processes involved in drug abuse and addiction. Prior to his appointment as Branch chief, Dr. Frascella directed NIDA's Pain and Analgesia Program as well as its Human Neurosciences Program. Before coming to NIDA, he was a research physiologist at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.