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National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Divisions and Offices | Photo Gallery


The mission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is to lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction. In this regard, NIDA addresses the most fundamental and essential questions about drug abuse—from detecting and responding to emerging drug abuse trends and understanding how drugs work in the brain and body, to developing and testing new approaches to treatment and prevention. NIDA also supports research training, career development, public education, public-private partnerships, and research dissemination efforts. Through its Intramural Research Program, as well as grants and contracts to investigators at research institutions around the country and overseas, NIDA supports research and training on:

  • The genetic, neurobiological, behavioral, and social mechanisms underlying drug abuse and addiction;
  • The causes and consequences of drug abuse, including the impact on society and morbidity and mortality in selected populations (e.g., ethnic minorities, youth, and women);
  • The relationship of drug abuse to other mental illnesses and to psychosocial outcomes such as unemployment, low socioeconomic status, and violence;
  • Effective prevention and treatment approaches, including a broad research program designed to develop new medications and behavioral therapies for drug addiction;
  • The relationship of drug abuse to cultural and ethical issues such as health disparities; and
  • The relationship of drug abuse to the acquisition, transmission, and clinical course of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other diseases, as well as the development of effective prevention/intervention strategies.

Important Events in NIDA History

1935—A research facility is established in Lexington, KY, as part of a U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) hospital. It became the Addiction Research Center in 1948.

1972—Drug Abuse Warning Network and National Household Survey on Drug Abuse are initiated under the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention.

1974—NIDA is established as the Federal focal point for research, treatment, prevention, training, services, and data collection on the nature and extent of drug abuse.

National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit Survey begins to identify the location, scope, and characteristics of public and private drug prevention and treatment programs.

1975—The Monitoring the Future Survey, also known as the High School Senior Survey, is initiated to measure prevalence and trends of non-medical drug use and related attitudes of high school seniors and young adults.

NIDA begins its "Research Monograph Series." Each monograph contains scientific papers that discuss a variety of subjects, including drug abuse treatment and prevention research.

1976—NIDA establishes the Community Epidemiology Work Group, made up of state and local representatives meeting semiannually with NIDA staff to assess recent drug abuse trends and to identify populations at risk.

1979—The clinical research program moves from Lexington, KY, to the campus of the Francis Scott Key Medical Center (later Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center) in Baltimore, MD. The basic science program follows in 1985.

NIDA sponsors the Treatment Outcome Prospective Study (TOPS), which continues through 1987 to evaluate the overall effectiveness of treatment and to identify certain factors as important determinants of drug abuse treatment success, such as length of time in treatment.

1985—NIDA publishes the first issue of its bimonthly newsletter, NIDA Notes.

1986—The dual epidemics of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS are recognized by Congress and the Administration, resulting in a quadrupling of NIDA funding for research on both major diseases.

1987—NIDA initiates the National AIDS Demonstration Research projects to study and change the high-risk behaviors of injection drug users not enrolled in drug treatment and their sex partners.

1990—NIDA establishes the Medications Development Program, focusing on developing new medications for treating addiction.

1991—The Monitoring the Future Survey is expanded to include 8th and 10th graders.

NIDA begins data collection for the Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study (the successor to TOPS) to assess the effectiveness of treatment in reducing drug abuse and to identify predictors of drug abuse treatment success.

NIDA holds its first research technology transfer conference in Washington, DC: "National Conference on Drug Abuse Research and Practice: An Alliance for the 21st Century."

1992—NIDA joins the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1993—The Institute obtains approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for levomethadyl acetate (LAAM), the first medication approved in a decade for the treatment of opioid addiction. Although the FDA approval was an important milestone in medications development, subsequent findings revealed more effective treatment options for opioid abuse, resulting in a consensus that the use of LAAM should be discontinued. 

1995—NIDA researchers clone the dopamine transporter, cocaine's primary site of action in the brain.

The Institute holds the first "National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research" in Arlington, VA.

1996—NIDA dedicates the Regional Brain Imaging Center located at the Institute's intramural research center in Baltimore.

1997—NIDA releases Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide, which describes the most successful concepts for preventing drug abuse among young people.

The Institute sponsors "Heroin Use and Addiction: A National Conference on Prevention, Treatment, and Research," in Washington, DC.

In partnership with the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), NIDA launches the annual PRISM awards for accurate depiction of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in feature films and television productions. 

1998—NIDA launches the "NIDA Goes to School" initiative to provide middle school students with accurate information on how drugs affect the brain. As a part of this initiative, more than 18,000 middle schools across the country received a compilation of resource materials.

1999—In collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NIDA creates the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers for studying tobacco use and new ways to combat it and its consequences.

NIDA launches its National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network, to rapidly and efficiently test the effectiveness of behavioral and pharmacological treatments in real-world treatment settings.

NIDA releases Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, developed for use in local communities. The guide describes the most successful concepts for treating people with drug abuse and addiction problems.

2000—NIDA distributes its "Clinical Toolbox," a collection of the latest comprehensive science-based publications on drug addiction and its treatment.

2001—The Institute launches the National Prevention Research Initiative to stimulate research that will fill critical gaps in the knowledge and use of science-based drug abuse prevention strategies in communities across the country.

2002—The Institute launches the new peer-reviewed journal Science and Practice Perspectives to encourage more collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

The FDA approves buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence. NIDA, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry, supported the development of this medication, which can be prescribed in a physician's office. This is a watershed event in the treatment of chronic opioid addiction, which previously required daily visits to specialized clinics for methadone dispensing.

With support from eight partner agencies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice, NIDA launches a major research initiative called the Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS). The goal of CJ-DATS is to establish a research infrastructure to develop and test models for an integrated approach to the treatment of incarcerated individuals with drug abuse or addictive disorders.

NIDA releases a new elementary school curriculum Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program, for use in second- and third-grade classrooms.

NIDA teams with Scholastic, a leading provider of educational materials for children and teachers, in launching a project to bring science-based information about drug abuse to millions of U.S. school children.

NIDA releases Principles of HIV Prevention in Drug-Using Populations: A Research-Based Guide, to help communities prevent the spread of HIV.

2003—NIDA releases its newly updated publication, Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders, Second Edition, which reflects NIDA's expanded research program and knowledge base in the area of drug abuse prevention.

NIDA launches its "NIDA Goes Back to School" campaign and "NIDA for Teens" website in an effort to keep parents, teachers, and teenagers informed about the science behind drug abuse.

NIDA seeks to address the gap that exists in the drug abuse treatment field between clinical practice and basic scientific investigation through the establishment of its "Blending" series of meetings. The 2003 meeting was titled "Blending Clinical Practice and Research: Forging Partnerships in the Rocky Mountain States to Enhance Drug Addiction Treatment."

2004—NIDA collaborates with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other Federal agencies to design a traveling museum exhibit, which debuted in New York City. This exhibit draws attention to the social, economic, and medical consequences associated with drug abuse.

2005—NIDA expands efforts to understand how drugs of abuse influence brain development through new research initiatives and collaborations with other NIH Institutes on pediatric neuroimaging studies.

NIDA launches an HIV/AIDS campaign to raise awareness regarding the link between drug abuse and HIV transmission. As a part of this effort NIDA develops a public service announcement that is aired across the Nation and displayed in Washington DC's Metro system. NIDA also develops a dedicated website, creates a "Research Report," and holds a scientific meeting on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.  A Spanish version of the public service announcement is developed for distribution the following year.

2006—NIDA launches its Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide, summarizing proven components for successfully treating drug abusers who have entered the criminal justice system.

2007—NIDA, in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), releases five Blending Team products to facilitate the adoption of effective research-based treatment by community practitioners. Products include education and training materials on: treatment protocols using buprenorphine, motivational interviewing, motivational incentives, and the Addiction Severity Index for treatment planning.

NIDA releases its first plain-language booklet explaining the science behind addiction. Drugs, Brains, & Behavior—The Science of Addiction discusses the reasons people take drugs, why some people become addicted while others do not, how drugs work in the brain, and how addiction can be prevented and treated. View Image.

NIDA joins with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and HBO to produce the Emmy Award-winning documentary titled "Addiction," which explores many elements of drug and alcohol addiction through the eyes of those who are addicted and features the insights of scientific experts working to better understand and treat this devastating disease.

NIDA holds the first national "Drug Facts Chat Day." High school students in schools from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam submitted over 36,000 questions on a wide range of drug abuse-related topics. View Images.

2008—NIDA launches its Avant Garde Award to support HIV/AIDS-focused investigators of exceptional creativity who propose bold and highly innovative research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on treatment and/or prevention of HIV/AIDS among drug users.

NIDA launches the first annual Addiction Science award, with Scholastic as co-sponsor (and in subsequent years with Friends of NIDA), at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world's largest science competition for high school students. Three Addiction Science awards were given to talented high school scientists to foster their interest in addiction research.

2009NIDA launches a comprehensive Physicians Outreach Initiative, NIDAMED, which gives medical professionals tools and resources to screen their patients for tobacco, alcohol, illicit, and nonmedical prescription drug use, including an interactive online drug abuse screening tool—the NIDA-modified ASSIST.

NIDA unveils a series of new teaching tools, through its Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (NIDA CoEs).  The new NIDA CoE curriculum resources provide scientifically accurate information on substance abuse, addiction and its consequences to help meet the educational needs of medical students, residents and medical school faculty.

NIDA sponsors a virtual town hall meeting, bringing together representatives from key federal agencies involved in preventing and combating substance abuse in the United States. Participants were linked via satellite from Washington, DC, to Camden, Maine, where members of five local communities, as well as community leaders from Freeport, Illinois, and Quincy, Washington, talked about their success in implementing the Communities That Care (CTC) system aimed at keeping youth safe from drugs.

NIDA-funded research, published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, shows promise for treating cocaine addiction. The study is the first successful, placebo-controlled demonstration of a vaccine against an illicit drug of abuse.

NIDA’s director, Dr. Nora Volkow, was awarded the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science.

2010— NIDA collaborates with the Department of Veteran Affairs and two NIH institutes to award 11 research institutions in 11 states more than $6 million in federal funding to support research on substance abuse and associated problems among U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families.

NIDA launches its Avant-Garde Medications Development Research Award designed to support researchers whose innovative approaches could have a major impact on the development of addiction medications. The newly launched research competition is an extension of NIDA's successful Avant-Garde Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research.

Two developments in the treatment of opioid addiction herald important advances for addressing this worldwide epidemic: The FDA approves Vivitrol, a long-acting injectable form of naltrexone, for opioid dependence, which could address compliance issues of oral naltrexone by allowing for once a month dosing. Similarly, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows promising findings for a long-acting implantable formulation of buprenorphine (Probuphine). NIDA is supporting further research on the clinical efficacy of Probuphine.

NIDA launches three new curriculum resources for NIDAMED’s Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program: an objective structured clinical exam on opioid risk management; a lecture presentation on how to talk to patients about sensitive subjects, including drug/alcohol abuse, intimate partner violence, and sexual history/concerns; and a methamphetamine lecture and interclerkship that introduces learners to methamphetamine abuse and dependence.

NIDA launches its first annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a health observance week for teens aimed to shatter the myths about drugs. Through community-based events around the country and activities on the Web, on TV and through music, NIDA encouraged teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse. Efforts included a collaboration with MusiCares® and the GRAMMY Foundation® to create the Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest; the development of a new booklet Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths, a National IQ Challenge Quiz, as well as numerous media outreach efforts that reached millions nationwide.

NIDA launches pages on Facebook and Twitter, two widely viewed social networking websites. NIDA posts on both platforms highlight a variety of topics, including press releases, program initiatives, drug facts, research updates and other news of interest.

2011—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health announce a joint, large-scale, national study of tobacco use to monitor and assess the behavioral and health impacts of new government tobacco regulations. The initiative, called The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study will follow more than 40,000 people with a focus on users of tobacco-products and those at risk for tobacco product use ages 12 and older in the United States.

NIDA launches the Addiction Performance Project (APP), a CME & CE program to help break down the stigma associated with addiction and promote a healthy dialogue that fosters compassion, cooperation, and understanding for patients living with this disease. This project is part of NIDA's outreach to practicing health professionals and those in training. Each performance begins with a dramatic reading of Act III of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night by award-winning professional actors, followed by a brief expert panel reaction and facilitated audience discussion. Lead actresses have included Debra Winger and Blythe Danner. The APP performances appeared in Washington, DC; Phoenix, AZ; Boston, MA; Denver, Co; and Philadelphia, PA. View Image.

NIDA, along with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), launches a free, nationwide service to help primary care providers seeking to identify and advise substance-abusing patients. The service, Physician Clinical Support System for Primary Care (PCSS-P), offers peer-to-peer mentorship and resources on incorporating screening and follow-up into regular patient care. NIDA also launches the NIDA Quick Screen, a single question screening tool, to facilitate screening for drug use in primary care settings. Both tools are part of the NIDAMED program. View Image.

NIDA launches PEERx, an updated prescription drug section on its teen Web site for teens to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make decisions about abusing prescription drugs based on real life situations they encounter at school and in life.

NIDA's award-winning peer-reviewed journal, Addiction Science & Clinical Practice (AS&CP), moves to Biomed Central (BMC), but remains available on the web at no charge. NIDA's news and analysis of research findings in its bi-monthly NIDA Notes is also transitioned to an all web format.

NIDA Legislative Chronology

1966—P.L. 89-793, the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act, provided for increased Federal efforts in the rehabilitation and treatment of narcotic addicts (limited to opiate abusers).

1970—P.L. 91-513, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, replaced the USPHS Act's definition of "narcotic addict" with a definition of "drug dependent person" to authorize treatment for both narcotic addicts and other persons with drug abuse problems.

1972—P.L. 92-255, the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act, created a Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP) in the Executive Office of the President, and authorized the establishment of NIDA within the Department to become operational in 1974. In cooperation with other Federal agencies, especially the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) Division of Narcotic Addiction and Drug Abuse (DNADA), SAODAP established a national network of multi-modality drug abuse treatment programs.

1974—P.L. 93-282, the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act Amendments, created the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA), which was charged with supervising and coordinating the functions of NIMH, NIDA, and NIAAA. Programs and responsibilities of DNADA and SAODAP were moved to NIDA.

1979—P.L. 96-181, the Drug Abuse Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Treatment Act, mandated that at least 7% in FY 1980 and 10% in FY 1981 of NIDA's Community Programs budget be spent on prevention.

1981—P.L. 97-35, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, repealed NIDA's formula grants and Community Programs project grants and contracts authorities, and established the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services (ADMS) Block Grant program, giving more control of treatment and prevention services to the states.

1986—P.L. 99-570, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, increased the Block Grant and created a substance abuse treatment enhancement. The Act also provided increased funds for all NIDA research, particularly AIDS research.

Executive Order 12564 mandated a drug-free Federal workplace program. NIDA became the lead agency, creating its Office of Workplace Initiatives.

1987—P.L. 100-71, Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1987, required HHS (NIDA) to publish guidelines in the Federal Register for Federal drug testing.

1988—P.L. 100-690, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, established the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the Executive Office of the President and authorized funds for Federal, state, and local law enforcement, school-based drug prevention efforts, and drug abuse treatment with special emphasis on injection drug abusers at high risk for AIDS.

1989 and 1990—P.L. 101-166 and P.L. 101-517, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Acts for FY 1990 and 1991, contained identical prohibitions precluding the use of funds provided under these enactments to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles.

1992—P.L. 102-321, the ADAMHA Reorganization Act, transferred NIDA to NIH; earmarked 15% of the Institute's research appropriation for health services research; established a Medication Development Program within NIDA; provided authority to designate Drug Abuse Research Centers for interdisciplinary research on drug abuse and related biomedical, behavioral, and social issues; and created an Office on AIDS at NIDA.

P.L. 102-394, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 1993 Appropriations Act, provided that up to $2 million of NIDA research funds be available to carry out section 706 of P.L. 102-321, which required the HHS Secretary, acting through NIDA, to request a National Academy of Sciences study of U.S. programs that provide both sterile hypodermic needles and bleach.

1993—P.L. 103-112, the Department of Labor, HHS and Education FY 1994 Appropriations Act, prohibited the use of funds under the Act for any further implementation of section 706 of P.L. 102-321 (see above) and any program for distributing sterile needles.

1994 and 1996—P.L. 103-333, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Act for FY 1995; P.L. 104-134, the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act for FY 1996; and P.L. 104-208, the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 1997—each prohibited use of any funds provided in the enactments to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles.

1997—P.L. 105-78, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriation Act for FY 1998, continued prior restrictions on needle-exchange programs through March 31, 1998, permitting funding thereafter of those programs meeting certain statutory requirements including criteria of the HHS Secretary.

1998—P.L. 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act-1999, restored the general prohibition on funds for needle exchange programs; statutorily reestablished ONDCP in the Executive Office of the President with significantly expanded authority over drug control agencies; and required ONDCP to conduct a 4-year (FYs 1999-2002) national anti-drug media campaign aimed at youth.

1999—P.L. 106-113, the Consolidated Appropriations Act-2000, continued the ban on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs; prohibited use of appropriated funds for promotion of legalization of any Schedule I controlled substance; and postponed termination of NIDA's triennial report until 5/15/2000.

2000—P.L. 106-554, the Consolidated Appropriations Act-2001, authorized the Director of NIH to negotiate a long-term lease for research facilities at Baltimore's Bayview Campus, and continued prior prohibitions on funding of sterile needle/syringe exchange programs and on promotion of legalization of Schedule I controlled substances.

P.L. 106-310, the Children's Health Act of 2000, repealed the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 [P.L. 89-793]; waived certain requirements of the Controlled Substances Act to permit qualified physicians to engage in office-based treatment of opiate dependence; and authorized expansion of NIDA research on methamphetamine and increased emphasis on ecstasy research.

2001—P.L. 107-116, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 2002 Appropriations Act, continued prior prohibitions on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs and on legalization of Schedule I controlled substances.

2002—Title II of P.L. 107-273, the Drug Abuse Education, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2002, authorized NIDA expansion of interdisciplinary research and clinical trials with treatment centers of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network; and required a NIDA study on development of medications for amphetamine/methamphetamine addiction.

2003—Division G of P.L. 108-7, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 2003 Appropriations Act, continued prior prohibitions on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs and on legalization of Schedule I controlled substances.

2004—P.L. 108-358, the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 2004, significantly expanded the list of anabolic steroids classified as controlled substances; required a review of Federal sentencing guidelines; and authorized $15 million, for each of the next fiscal years through 2009, for educational programs in schools to highlight the dangers of steroids, with preference given to programs deemed effective by NIDA.

2005—P.L. 109-56 amended the Controlled Substances Act to lift the patient limitations imposed on medical practitioners in group practices regarding the prescribing of drug addiction treatments. Section 2013 of P.L. 109-59, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, directed the Secretary of Transportation to advise and coordinate with other Federal agencies to address driving under the influence of controlled substances and, in cooperation with NIH (NIDA), to submit a report to Congress on drug-impaired driving.

2006—P.L. 109-469, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Reauthorization Act of 2006, in section 1102, amended the Controlled Substances Act to further relax the patient limitations on provision of drug addiction treatments, allowing medical practitioners to notify the HHS Secretary of need and intent to treat up to 100 patients. Section 1120 required the ONDCP Director to consult with NIH (NIDA) and the National Academy of Sciences in making policy relating to syringe exchange programs.

2006P.L. 109-482 (H.R. 6164), the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006, reaffirmed certain organizational authorities of the NIH Director including establishing, abolishing, and reorganizing national research institutes. It established the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) to advise the NIH Director on the use of these organizational authorities. In 2009, the SMRB began discussions about how to optimize research into substance use, abuse, and addiction at the NIH. In 2010, the SMRB voted in favor of recommending to the NIH Director the establishment of a new institute for substance use, abuse, and addiction-related research and the dissolution of NIAAA and NIDA.

2008—P.L. 110-199, Second Chance Act of 2007, reauthorized and rewrote provisions of the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to expand reentry services for offenders. Required the Attorney General (1) to consult with NIDA (and SAMHSA) regarding performance outcome measures and data collection related to substance abuse and mental health services [sec.101 (k)]; and (2) in consultation with NIDA to conduct a study on the use and effectiveness of funding aftercare services for offenders completing substance abuse programs while incarcerated [sec. 102 (c)]. Permitted the U.S. Attorney General in consultation with NIDA to make research grants to evaluate the effectiveness of depot naltrexone for treatment of heroin addiction [sec. 244 (a)].

2009—P.L. 111-117, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, changed federal law regarding potential funding for syringe exchange programs.  The Act states:  " None of the funds contained in this Act may be used to distribute any needle or syringe for the purpose of preventing the spread of blood borne pathogens in any location that has been determined by the local public health or local law enforcement authorities to be inappropriate for such distribution.” Thus, syringe exchange for this purpose is allowed unless public health or law enforcement authorities choose, at the local level, to prevent it.  This change could result in additional research proposals, and thus funding, for syringe exchange-related research projects.

Biographical Sketch of NIDA Director, Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., became Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health in May 2003. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

Dr. Volkow’s work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects of drugs and their addictive properties. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting the actions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive, and pleasure and the decline of brain dopamine function with age. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the behavioral changes that occur with aging.

Dr. Volkow was born in Mexico, attended the Modern American School, and earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she received the Premio Robins award for best medical student of her generation. Her psychiatric residency was at New York University, where she earned the Laughlin Fellowship Award as one of the 10 Outstanding Psychiatric Residents in the USA.

Dr. Volkow spent most of her professional career at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, NY, where she held several leadership positions, including Director of Nuclear Medicine, Chairman of the Medical Department, and Associate Director for Life Sciences. In addition, Dr. Volkow was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Dean of the Medical School at the State University of New York (SUNY)—Stony Brook.

Dr. Volkow has published over 500 peer-reviewed articles and more than 90 book chapters and non-peer-reviewed manuscripts, and has also edited three books on the use of neuroimaging in studying mental and addictive disorders.

During her professional career, Dr. Volkow has been the recipient of multiple awards, including her selection for membership in the Institute of Medicine in the National Academies and the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science. She was recently named one of Time magazine’s “Top 100 People Who Shape our World” and was included as one of the 20 people to watch by Newsweek magazine in its “Who’s Next in 2007” feature. She was also included in Washingtonian Magazine’s 2009 and 2011 list of the “100 Most Powerful Women” and named “Innovator of the Year” by U.S. News & World Report in 2000.

NIDA Directors

Name In Office from To
Robert L. DuPont 1973 1978
William Pollin 1979 1985
Charles R. Schuster 1986 1992
Richard A. Millstein (Acting) 1992 1994
Alan I. Leshner 1994 2001
Glen R. Hanson (Acting) 2001 2003
Nora D. Volkow 2003 Present

Divisions and Offices

Office of the Director

The Office of the Director (OD) leads the Institute by setting research and programmatic priorities. In order to help coordinate key OD functions, a position of Director of Program Integration at NIDA was created in 2008. This position is designed to facilitate collaboration across NIDA’s Divisions, Offices, and Centers as well as across the NIH with an emphasis on program development. In addition, cross-cutting initiatives are coordinated through special offices within the Office of the Director.

The Special Populations Office has two goals: (1) to address the research training and career development needs of underrepresented minorities and others (women, individuals with disabilities, etc.) in drug abuse research and (2) to ensure that minority issues in drug abuse research are adequately represented in the work supported by NIDA.

The AIDS Research Program office provides direction and leadership for the development of a progressive HIV/AIDS research portfolio that addresses the unique dimensions of drug abuse as it relates to HIV/AIDS. The development and implementation of this research program is guided by several factors including, but not limited to, the epidemiology of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the evolution of HIV/AIDS diagnoses and treatment, and the role of drug abuse and related behaviors in the spread and progression of HIV/AIDS.

The NIDA International Program fosters international cooperative research and the exchange of scientific information by drug abuse researchers around the globe. NIDA's international objectives include promoting international research activities; supporting research training and exchange opportunities globally; communicating and disseminating science-based information on drug abuse; and supporting international research collaboration.

NIDA’s Women and Sex/Gender Differences Research Program promotes the conduct, translation, and dissemination of drug abuse research on sex/gender differences and issues specific to women.  Research on women and gender differences is supported in all of NIDA's programmatic branches and is grouped into four major program areas: Etiology, Consequences, Prevention, and Treatment and Services.

Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research

The Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research plans, stimulates, develops, and supports a broad extramural research program to study: (1) the nature, patterns, and consequences of drug use among general, special, and community-based populations; (2) innovative sampling, data collection, and analytic methodologies designed to support epidemiology and prevention and early intervention and services research; (3) prevention of drug use and addiction, and services research including the prevention of medical/social/psychological sequelae of drug use; (4) behavioral and social science research in the context of communities and defined populations, including the consequences of drug use such as delinquency and violence; (5) services research on the impact of the organization, financing, and management of treatment programs and services systems on quality, cost, access, and outcomes of care; and (6) economic modeling and configuration of the treatment system.

Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research

The primary goal of the Division of Basic Neuroscience and Behavioral Research is to support an extramural program of research in the basic biomedical and behavioral sciences that relates to the public health problem of drug abuse and addiction. The supported research provides an understanding of the neurobiological and behavioral effects of drugs of abuse. Research focuses on the genetic, epigenetic, and neurobiological mechanisms of addiction, drug craving, effects of drugs on behavior and cognition, long-term chronic effects of drugs, and drug metabolism. Basic research concerned with understanding the complex interrelationship between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS progression and transmission is also supported. The research supported by the Division provides important fundamental information for developing prevention and treatment interventions for drug abuse and addiction.

Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research

The Division of Clinical Neuroscience and Behavioral Research supports a broad range of research focused on translating addiction science related to brain, behavior, and health through an integrated research program in clinical neuroscience, development, and behavioral treatment, including HIV/AIDS. This division has three research branches that develop and administer national research and research training programs:

The Clinical Neuroscience Branch (CNB) advances a clinical research and research training program focused on understanding the neurobiological substrates of drug abuse and addiction processes, including the etiology of drug use and transition from drug use to addiction. A major focus of this program is on the characterization of how abused drugs affect the structure and function of the human central nervous system and the behavioral processes subserved by neural circuits. Another major emphasis of this program is on individual differences in neurobiological, genetic, and neurobehavioral factors that underlie increased risk for and/or resilience to drug abuse, addiction, and drug-related disorders.

The Behavioral and Brain Development Branch (BBDB) supports a spectrum of research and research training programs that addresses relationships among drug use/abuse/addiction, social/physical environment factors, and human development, with emphasis on neurodevelopmental, cognitive, and behavioral mechanisms that underlie these relationships. Studies cover the full developmental time course from prior to conception through adulthood and into senescence, and utilize a variety of behavioral and neuroscience research methods.

The Behavioral and Integrative Treatment Branch (BITB) supports research directed toward the development and improvement of drug abuse treatment and intervention for associated problems. The Branch encourages a staged approach to treatment and intervention development, supporting activities required to translate findings from basic science, other areas of health, or clinical observation, into researchable interventions; supporting the full-scale testing of promising or established interventions; and supporting the development of clinical training and supervision methods, streamlining of interventions, and other activities that prepare an intervention for dissemination.

Center for the Clinical Trials Network

The Center for the Clinical Trials Network (CCTN) was established in 1999 with the goal to improve Substance Use Disorders (SUD) treatment by accelerating the pace of translating basic discoveries into clinical practice, fostering and mentoring of emerging scientists and physicians, and communicating research advances to the public. The CTN is an expansive enterprise that brings together providers from more than two hundred hospitals, clinics, treatment centers, private practices and scientists from fifty-seven affiliated universities in an organization of thirteen Regional Research Training Centers (RRTCs) funded through cooperative agreements. The network serves a NIDA-wide mission to identify gaps in knowledge, develop community based health care system oriented approaches to increase the use of evidence-based addiction treatment by individuals, communities, health care providers, public institutions, and especially by populations that experience a disproportionate disease burden.

Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse

The Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse plans and directs studies necessary to identify, evaluate, develop, and obtain FDA marketing approval for medications to treat substance use disorders (SUDs). The Division develops and administers a program of basic and clinical research to develop innovative pharmacological (both chemical and biological) approaches to treat SUDs. This program is implemented through collaborations with academia, industry (pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies), and other government institutions (e.g., the Veterans Administration and the FDA). The Division also coordinates and provides leadership in the area of medical conditions associated with SUDs, including but not limited to HIV/AIDS.

Intramural Research Program

NIDA's Intramural Research Program is located in Baltimore, MD. Originally known as the Addiction Research Center, the Intramural Research Program conducts multidisciplinary research on basic biological and behavioral mechanisms that underlie drug abuse and addiction, including its causes and adverse consequences. Research is also supported on treatments for drug addiction and HIV transmission of injection drug users. Studies range from molecular to laboratory research with animals to clinical studies with human volunteers. The program employs the latest technologies—including optogenetic approaches and magnetic resonance imaging—to study the action of drugs in the human brain and transgenic species to better understand the role of genes in drug abuse. The intramural program also serves as a national and international training center for young investigators in the drug abuse field.

Office of Science Policy and Communications

The Office of Science Policy and Communications (1) provides leadership and direction in planning, coordinating, analyzing, and evaluating the Institute's scientific research programs; (2) heads the Research Training Committee, which consists of staff representatives from all NIDA divisions, offices, and centers to support the development of research scientists through various stages of their careers; (3) represents the Institute's research and research training programs to other government agencies, the Congress, scientific and professional organizations, and the public; (4) evaluates, analyzes, and develops policy options in regard to the Institute's scientific research and research training activities; (5) prepares briefing materials and testimony for congressional hearings and serves as liaison with the Congress, the White House, and other significant Federal and governmental agencies; (6) prepares reports, develops responses, and provides information on legislative efforts; responds to congressional inquiries; and analyzes legislative proposals for the NIDA Director; (7) advises the Director on national drug abuse policy issues; (8) conducts relevant public affairs activities and collaborates with a variety of public and private entities to enhance knowledge and awareness of NIDA's programs and findings; (9) provides liaison with scientific and professional groups and private organizations; and (10) develops and disseminates publications designed to communicate the current science regarding drug abuse.

Office of Extramural Affairs

NIDA's Office of Extramural Affairs (1) provides advice and guidance to the NIDA Director regarding the Institute's peer review process and extramural policy; (2) provides scientific analyses of the Institute's extramural research program, assessing the breadth and scope of the Institute's research activities; (3) administers the peer review of extramural grant applications; (4) administers contract concept reviews and peer review of all contract proposals; (5) administers the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse second level review of extramural support mechanisms and advises on overall NIDA program and policy manners; (6) coordinates and assures the development of program policies and rules relating the Institute's extramural activities, including Institute responsibility for inquiries and investigations into misconduct in science; (7) coordinates Institute activities under the Privacy Act; (8) manages issuance of Confidentiality Certificates; and (8) administers the Institute's committee management function under the National Advisory Council Act.

Office of Management

The Office of Management (1) provides all administrative and management support services to the Institute in such areas as: financial planning, analysis, and management; administrative services; personnel management; information resources management; grants and contracts management; and management analysis; (2) develops, implements, and monitors administrative management policies, procedures, and guidelines; (3) develops and monitors the implementation of program policies and plans, and evaluates progress in meeting established Institute objectives; (4) develops data requirements pertinent to short- and long-range program planning and develops the Institute's program evaluation policy; (5) administers the Institute's program evaluation system for all Institute employees; and (6) maintains responsibility for all management and administrative policy studies, reports, analyses, and program objectives.

This page last reviewed on April 2, 2012

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