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NIDA. (2004, April 1). Special Supplement: Advancing the Frontiers of Drug Abuse Research: NIDA Celebrates 30 Years of Achievement. Retrieved from

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April 01, 2004
Patrick Zickler

These pages celebrate 30 years of progress in drug abuse research sponsored by--and often accomplished at--the National Institute on Drug Abuse, or NIDA. In commemorating the tremendous scientific accomplishments highlighted in these pages, it is important to note that these NIDA-sponsored advances in knowledge of drug abuse have transformed society's attitudes toward drug addiction. For much of its history, addiction has been characterized as a moral failing, a disorder of flawed character and failed willpower. These attitudes have hindered efforts to prevent drug abuse and develop effective treatments for those who suffer with the disease of drug addiction.

In the last 30 years, NIDA has replaced myth and misperceptions about drug abuse with scientific understanding of the true nature of drug addiction. Today, thanks to the accomplishments of thousands of NIDA-supported scientists, there is widespread recognition that drug addiction is similar to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes that involve a complex mix of biology and behavior. All are marked by a degree of heritability and biological vulnerability that can interact with external events to engender unhealthy behaviors that eventually trigger disease. Research supported by NIDA has demonstrated conclusively that drug abuse is a preventable behavior, drug addiction is a brain disease marked by compulsive abuse of drugs, and research-based approaches can prevent drug addiction from occurring or treat it effectively once it develops.

With an annual budget approaching $1 billion, NIDA now supports intramural and extramural research on all aspects of drug abuse and addiction. NIDA's in-house research program, which traces its origins to a small research unit created in 1935 to study and treat heroin addiction among Federal prisoners, now carries out a comprehensive program of multidisciplinary research studies that complements the Institute's more extensive extramural program. The extramural program supports hundreds of scientists in universities and research centers around the country and abroad in conducting a wide range of basic, clinical, and epidemiological studies to increase understanding of drug addiction and develop improved strategies for preventing and treating it.

Today, NIDA's comprehensive research programs are positioned to accelerate the discovery of new scientific information on the causes and consequences of drug abuse and addiction, develop more effective ways to prevent and treat the disease, and foster the rapid integration of these science-based solutions into clinical practice in communities across America. As it has since its inception, the Institute is advancing the frontiers of drug abuse research as it fulfills its vital mission--reducing the devastating and costly individual, social, and public health consequences of this pervasive disorder.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director
National Institute on Drug Abuse

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