Number 43, September 2012

During the XIX International AIDS Conference, which was held July 22–27, 2012, in Washington, DC, NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., joined other National Institutes of Health (NIH) leaders in presenting advances and challenges in AIDS research. Dr. Volkow focused on seek, test, treat, and retain strategies that NIDA-funded research has recently shown to prevent HIV infection, particularly among injection drug users, and on a second NIDA study that found primary care physicians may defer antiretroviral treatment for their patients who inject drugs, despite evidence that treating both HIV and substance use disorders can reduce or eliminate HIV transmission. She described NIDA priorities for developing a heroin vaccine and opiate addiction treatment medications, especially those that are not based on opiate agonists. The satellite was chaired by Jack Whitescarver, Ph.D., NIH Office of AIDS Research, and featured NIH Director Francis S. Collins; Anthony Fauci, M.D., and Carl Dieffenbach, Ph.D., National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Avi Nath, M.D., National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and Robert Yarchoan, M.D., National Cancer Institute. A recording of the session and a transcript are available on the Kaiser Family Foundation website.

Building on the 2011 binational agreement between NIDA and the Italian Department for Anti-Drug Policies (DAP), Italy has translated the NIDA website, Easy-to-Read Drug Facts, into Italian. The easy-to-read website features pictures and videos to help readers understand the text about drug abuse, addiction, and treatment. The pages are easy to print out to share with people who do not have computers. In an introduction to the Italian version of the site, Giovanni Serpelloni, M.D., DAP, said the good, simple, and clear information on the site will help young people choose appropriate health behaviors and avoid substance use. Cooperation on education was a priority established by the binational agreement.

NIDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have recently issued several funding opportunity announcements of interest to the international drug abuse research community:

FY13 NIDA Avant-Garde Award Program for HIV/AIDS Research (DP1; RFA-DA-13-002) The NIDA Avant-Garde Award Program for HIV/AIDS Research is now open to international scientists. This award is designed to support individual scientists of exceptional creativity who propose cutting-edge—and possibly transformative—approaches to major challenges in biomedical and behavioral research on HIV/AIDS that are relevant to drug abuse. The award is intended to support high-impact research that will open new areas of HIV/AIDS research and/or lead to new avenues for treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS among drug abusers. Proposed research should reflect ideas and approaches that are substantially different from those already being studied by the investigator or others. Avant-Garde awardees are required to commit at least 35 percent of their research effort to activities supported by the Avant-Garde Award. Pre-application is required.

Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (P50; RFA-DA-13-003) NIDA is among the NIH Institutes that have issued an RFA in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration to provide up to $40 million to support as many as 12 Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science (TCORS) for fiscal year 2013. TCORS conduct multidisciplinary research to inform tobacco product regulation and are expected to cooperate with other centers in the research network. Applications must include a plan for research training. Foreign institutions are eligible to apply.

Norwegian Collaborative Projects With Research Groups in the United States Up to $10 million NOK is available to cover the Norwegian costs of collaborative research projects between Norwegian researchers and NIH-funded U.S. researchers investigating mental health, alcohol, or drug abuse.

More than 260 participants from 61 countries attended the 17th Annual NIDA International Forum, which was held June 8–11, 2012, in Palm Springs, California. The meeting focused on the growing public health problem of new and emerging psychoactive substances, which are mostly unregulated compounds that are specifically designed to circumvent drug laws and mimic the effects of illicit drugs by slightly altering the chemical structure of a known drug. A joint College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD)/NIDA International Forum poster session featured presentations by 160 U.S. and international researchers. Abstracts from the poster session are available in the NIDA International Drug Abuse Research Abstract Database.

NIDA International Program Director Steven W. Gust, Ph.D., chaired the meeting, which was planned jointly by the NIDA International Program, NIDA Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research (DESPR), and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). In addition to the NIDA International Program, financial support for the 2012 NIDA International Forum was provided by DESPR, EMCDDA, the NIDA Office of Science Policy and Communications, and the Institute’s Asian American/Pacific Islander Researchers and Scholars Work Group.

The opening plenary session featured updates from the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), EMCDDA, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Cecelia McNamara Spitznas, Ph.D., ONDCP, said strengthening international partnerships in both demand and supply reduction efforts remains a priority for ONDCP. She also reported that every dollar invested in an evidence-based prevention program could reduce costs related to substance use disorders by $2 to $18. Mr. Griffiths concluded that globalization, reliance on the Internet as a source of medical information, younger populations who are more willing to experiment with new substances, and cost efficiencies in manufacturing and adapting products have created a dynamic and fluid situation that presents a growing challenge for monitoring, responding to, and controlling the use of new psychoactive substances. Michelle D. Walker, Ph.D., DEA, described the legal steps the agency can use to limit use of these new psychoactive substances, which she noted are reportedly more addictive, are more dangerous, and may cause more powerful highs compared with chemically similar substances.

NIDA Acting Deputy Director David A. Shurtleff, Ph.D., chaired a plenary session panel of researchers who discussed the latest research findings on detecting new compounds, assessing their effects, and monitoring use trends. Two breakout sessions also focused on new and emerging psychoactive substances, providing global updates and discussing the implications these substances have on prevention and treatment interventions. NIDA International Program Associate Director Dale Weiss chaired a session designed for NIDA International Fellowships Program alumni. Other breakout sessions focused on network-based models for monitoring drug abuse trends, international research reports, and drugged driving.

NIDA International Awards of Excellence, which recognize individuals for outstanding contributions to international cooperation in drug abuse research and training, were presented to Clyde B. McCoy, Ph.D., University of Miami, for excellence in mentoring, and Paul Griffiths M.Sc., EMCDDA, for excellence in international leadership.

Save the Date: 2013 NIDA International Forum

June 14–17, 2013
Hilton Bayfront Hotel, San Diego, California
Abstract Submission and Travel Award Application Deadline: December 1, 2012

The NIDA International Program supported three participants in a Regional Grant Writing and Scientific Peer Review Workshop that was held June 27–29, 2012, in Bogotá, Colombia. The workshop, which was organized by U.S. and Latin American officials, provided guidance on identifying training and funding opportunities, developing grant applications, establishing collaborations, and understanding the grant review process, confidentiality, and conflict of interest. Ivan Montoya, M.D., NIDA Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Addiction, was one of the U.S. faculty members and made several presentations during the meeting. The NIDA-supported participants included 2001–2002 NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Ines Bustamante, Ph.D., Peru; Franco Romani, M.D., Peru; and Maria Isabel Roldos, D.Ph., Ecuador. In addition to NIDA, the workshop was supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the National Institutes of Health; Fogarty International Center; National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Pan American Health Organization; Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection; and the Colombian National Institute of Health.

The University of Adelaide Director of the International Programme in Addiction Studies (IPAS), Femke Buisman-Pijlman, Ph.D., M.Sc., has received a State Teaching Award for her innovative work around online learning and developing the IPAS program. Dr. Buisman-Pijlman was named Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Early Career Educator of the Year in tertiary teaching. The vice chancellors of the three state universities—Flinders University, University of South Australia, and University of Adelaide—participated in the awards gala. Dr. Buisman-Pijlman had previously received an Executive Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching from the University of Adelaide, where she is a lecturer and coordinator of all the postgraduate courses in alcohol and drug studies. IPAS is an online master’s degree program in addiction studies offered jointly by the University of Adelaide, King’s College London in the United Kingdom, and Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States. NIDA partially supported development of the program. Learn more about IPAS here.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Information System on Resources for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use Disorders maps and monitors health system resources at the country level. Data from 147 countries (88 percent of the world population), collected in 2008, show that there are only 1.7 beds per 100,000 people available to treat alcohol and drug use disorders. Methadone and buprenorphine are available to treat opioid addiction in 30 percent of countries, and only 9 percent of nations utilize routine screening and brief interventions for alcohol use and alcohol use disorders in primary health care settings. The new Global Health Observatory provides reports, country statistics, maps, and interactive charts with details about substance use disorders and other health topics. Access the Global Health Observatory through the WHO website.

Seeking to prevent adverse health effects of consuming alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, or other psychoactive substances during pregnancy, the World Health Organization (WHO) is developing guidelines to assist in identifying and managing substance use by pregnant women. WHO reports that substance use during pregnancy has been associated with miscarriage, impaired fetal growth and development, and life-long problems in affected infants. WHO expects to release the guidelines in 2014. For more information about the project, contact WHO Medical Officer Nicolas Clark, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., M.D.,

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2012 World Drug Report concludes that subtle changes in world drug markets, which have been otherwise stable for the past 5 years, are “proof of the resilience and adaptability of illicit drug suppliers and users.” The report, based on data collected in 2010, estimates that between 153 million and 300 million people age 15–64 used illicit drugs at least once in the past year and attributes 1 in every 100 adult deaths annually to illicit drug use (that figure rises to 1 in 20 for North America and Oceania). Drug use, especially injection drug use, contributes significantly to the global burden of disease: 20 percent of injection drug users (IDUs) have HIV; 46.7 percent of IDUs have hepatitis C; and 14.6 percent of IDUs have hepatitis B. Nonmedical use of prescription drugs continues to surge and is increasingly reported in polydrug use combined with illicit substances. New and emerging psychoactive substances were reported in numerous countries in all regions, but especially in Europe, North America, and Oceania. The full report is available on the UNODC website.

The International AIDS Society (IAS) and NIDA have awarded postdoctoral fellowships to scientists from Bangladesh, Greece, and Iran and professional development fellowships to scientists from Iran and Tajikistan. IAS and NIDA cosponsor the fellowships. The postdoctoral awards provide 18 months of training with an expert in drug abuse-related HIV to advance scientific understanding of the linkages between drug use and HIV while fostering multinational research. The professional development awards provide 8 months of training in HIV-related drug use research for well-established HIV or drug use scientists.

The 2012 IAS/NIDA postdoctoral fellows are:

  • Salequl Islam, Ph.D., Bangladesh, will study mechanisms and implications of injection and inflammation among HIV/hepatitis C virus (HCV)-coinfected drug users in the AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience (ALIVE) study. His mentor is Gregory D. Kirk, M.D., Johns Hopkins University. Building on Dr. Islam’s microbiology and HIV basic science expertise, the fellowship combines epidemiological and mechanistic investigation of the contributions made by injecting behavior and HIV/HCV infections to chronic inflammation and the role of inflammation on progression of HIV/HCV-related liver disease.
  • Georgios Nikolopoulos, Ph.D., Greece, will develop measures to study how macro-level economic and social changes may have affected HIV risk among Greek injecting drug users. His mentor is Samuel Friedman, Ph.D., National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. Dr. Nikolopoulos will spend the first part of his fellowship studying behavioral and social risk research methods and the second part conducting ethnographic research in Greece. He and his mentor expect that these Greek data, collected in the contexts of ongoing turmoil related to the economic crisis and an HIV epidemic among injection drug users, will greatly improve methods to conduct research in other crisis-involved countries and monitor crisis-involved countries for emerging HIV risk situations.
  • Mehrak Javadi Paydar, Ph.D., Iran, will analyze the neuroprotective effects of estrogen/soy isoflavones against development of HIV-induced neurodegeneration. Her mentor is Rosemarie Booze, Ph.D., University of South Carolina. They will modulate the dopamine transmission system of cocaine-sensitized rats and hope to determine the potential protective effects of estrogenic compounds on concomitant cocaine/HIV neurotoxicity.

The 2012 IAS/NIDA professional development fellows are:

  • Seyed Ramin Radfar, M.D., M.P.H., Iran, will analyze the prevalence of amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) use among patients receiving methadone or buprenorphine maintenance treatment and the effects of ATS use on HIV risk-related behaviors in Isfahan, Iran. His mentor is Richard Rawson, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Radfar will use a mixed method, qualitative-quantitative study to provide local health authorities with recommendations for reducing ATS-related harms among drug users in Isfahan.
  • Makhbatsho Bakhromov, Tajikistan, M.D., M.S., will examine the linkage between temporary labor migration, substance abuse, and HIV risk among Tajik male migrants in Moscow. His mentor is Judith Levy, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Bakhromov will explore the role of socioeconomic marginalization, psychosocial factors, and lessening of normative sanctions in encouraging risky behavior and develop for later testing a culturally appropriate and contextually suitable HIV prevention model for Tajik migrant workers who inject drugs.

Researchers from Ireland and Ukraine have been selected as NIDA INVEST Drug Abuse Research Fellows, and a scientist from Indonesia has been selected as a NIDA INVEST/CTN Drug Abuse Research Fellow.

  • Former Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow Tetiana Kiriazova, Ph.D., Ukraine, will spend her INVEST Fellowship working with Jeffrey H. Samet, M.D., M.A., M.P.H, Boston Medical Center. The director of HIV/AIDS programs at the Odessa Regional Charity Foundation “Future Without AIDS,” Dr. Kiriazova is the Ukrainian principal investigator on Dr. Samet’s NIDA-funded project, Linking Russian Narcology and HIV Care To Enhance Treatment, Retention, and Outcomes, and a senior investigator on a Ukrainian Ministry of Health-funded project to analyze the local HIV and tuberculosis epidemics. During her fellowship, she will conduct a secondary analysis of factors associated with participant attrition in a completed randomized controlled trial of an HIV risk reduction intervention that Dr. Samet conducted in Russia. They hypothesize that injection drug use, HIV stigma, HIV disclosure, and depression will be associated with the likelihood of attrition. If this hypothesis is supported, they will suggest ways that clinical research and practice could be modified to minimize attrition in future studies. Dr. Kiriazova spent her 2009–2010 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship in HIV/AIDS Policy and Prevention at Emory University.
  • Jan Klimas, Ph.D., Ireland, has been selected as an INVEST Fellow. He will spend his fellowship working with Dennis McCarty, Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University. A research assistant at University College Dublin and Cochrane Research Fellow at University of Limerick, Dr. Klimas will extend his research on screening and brief intervention for alcohol use disorders among methadone patients in primary care settings, compare Irish systems of primary care screening and methadone treatment with methods for screening and brief intervention in U.S. primary care settings, and contrast buprenorphine services in the United States with primary care methadone services in Ireland.  
  • Vivi Octavia Lubis, M.D., Indonesia, will spend her INVEST/CTN Fellowship with George Woody, M.D., University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lubis is head of the education and research department at Drug Dependence Hospital RSKO Jakarta, where she treats patients in the hospital’s methadone program, counsels patients enrolled in a NIDA-funded study on drug and HIV risk reduction in five Indonesian methadone clinics, and coordinates a tuberculosis treatment program. To assess the impact of new Indonesian laws mandating drug treatment as an alternative to incarceration, Dr. Lubis will study outcomes of 250 patients treated for addiction to amphetamine-type stimulants who enter court-ordered or voluntary therapeutic community versus outpatient treatment programs, focusing on the relationship between outcome, mandated treatment, and the course of psychiatric symptoms.  

Harrie Jonkman, Dr.S., Verwey-Jonker Institute, The Netherlands, has received a NIDA Distinguished International Scientist Collaboration Award (DISCA) to extend his collaboration with J. David Hawkins, Ph.D., University of Washington in Seattle. With previous support from the NIDA International Program and the Dutch Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) through the U.S.–Netherlands Binational Agreement, the two have collaborated on implementing and assessing the outcomes of the Communities That Care prevention intervention in 10 Dutch and 12 U.S. cities. During the DISCA exchange, Drs. Jonkman and Hawkins will explore three topics: (1) sharing experiences on research assessing the impact of prevention programs; (2) comparing implementation research in both countries; and (3) preparing a multinational, longitudinal research plan to investigate alcohol use and other problem behaviors in adolescents that would be modeled on a University of Washington in Seattle program with Australian researchers. Dr. Jonkman’s research proposal would translate, cognitively pretest, pilot, and develop the capacity in six European nations (Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, The Netherlands, and United Kingdom) to standardize data collection and sampling procedures and examine the effects of school, state, and national policies on drug use by youth. Dr. Jonkman also is completing a book on prevention and impact research.

The NIDA International Program supported a student in the Advanced Course in Computational Neuroscience, which was held July 30–August 24, 2012, at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Będlewo, Poland. Matt Lewis, a graduate student at Cornell University, participated in the course, which is sponsored by the Federation of European Neurosciences (FENS) and the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO). The course combines lectures on experimental and computational neuroscience topics with practical training in neural modeling. Each student pursues an individual research project and presents the results to students and faculty at the end of the course.

The Anti Narcotic-Coordinating Center of the Thai National Council on Social Welfare has translated articles from NIDA Notes to make the material more accessible to researchers and policymakers in the region. Nittaya Vairojanavong, M.A., coordinator of the nongovernmental organization, translated articles about the effects of exercise on cocaine seeking (NIDA Notes April 2012; 24[2]); medications that target the glutamate system to reduce drug seeking (NIDA Notes October 2010; 23[2]); and the NIDA Women and Sex/Gender Research Program (NIDA Notes April 2012; 24[2]). All NIDA publications are within the public domain, which means that anyone may use or reproduce the publications without first seeking permission from NIDA. This includes translating publications into another language. NIDA requests that the Institute be cited as the source of the material, and copies of translated materials may be sent to the NIDA International Program,

The NIDA International Program stays abreast of funding opportunities, upcoming deadlines for fellowship and grant applications, and meetings of interest to the international addiction and drug abuse research community.

Funding Opportunities