Number 40, February 2012

Earlier this month, the NIDA International Program welcomed 27 fellows from as many nations as part of an orientation for new fellowship awardees. International Program Director Steven W. Gust, Ph.D., and Associate Director Dale Weiss hosted the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows from Virginia Commonwealth University and Johns Hopkins University, who were joined by NIDA INVEST and INVEST/CTN fellows for the 3-day orientation. Fellows learned about the Institute's international research priorities as well as NIDA and National Institutes of Health resources and collaboration and training tools that the fellows can access during their time in the United States and after they return to their home countries to continue their research.

NIDA International Program's Ms. Dale Weiss, Associate Director, sitting second from left, welcomes new 2012 Hubert H. Humphrey, INVEST, and INVEST-CTN Fellows

NIDA International Program's Ms. Dale Weiss, Associate Director, sitting second from left, welcomes new 2012 Hubert H. Humphrey, INVEST, and INVEST-CTN Fellows.

During the orientation, fellows traveled to nearby College Park, Maryland, to network with researchers and students there who are part of the University of Maryland’s Center for Addictions Personality and Emotion Research (CAPER). CAPER students and researchers gave talks on such topics as self-regulatory mechanisms in risk taking, meditative therapies for managing addiction, and behavioral activation treatment. Four NIDA fellows described the state of drug abuse in their countries and the research they are currently undertaking. The fellows’ presentations elucidated questions from the audience members who were interested to hear about the extent of drug abuse in these countries and the differences in how prevention and treatment programs are implemented, given the different cultural and geographic challenges in the regions. Highlights of the NIDA fellow presentations are below:

  • Maria de L. Garcia-Anaya, M.D., Ph.D., National Institute of Psychiatry, Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, spoke about the ongoing work to develop a Clinical Trials Network (CTN) in Mexico. The effort, part of a collaboration between the U.S. State Department and Mexico, is supported by the NIDA Center for the CTN, the NIDA International Program, and the Florida Node Alliance at the University of Miami. During her fellowship, Dr. Garcia-Anaya is splitting her time between two clinical trial nodes, the Greater New York Regional Node and the Florida Alliance Node, to enhance her clinical research skills for her return to Mexico. Her current project deals with a therapeutic model for substance abuse disorders comorbid with depression.
  • Saeed Momtazi, M.D., an addiction psychiatrist in Iran, offered an historical perspective on the drugs of abuse in the country and described some of the current problems resulting from opium use. Geography, Dr. Momtazi explained, is one of the main reasons the prevalence of opium drug abuse is so high in Iran. Afghanistan, which borders Iran in the east, produces 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium and transports much of it through Iran to other countries, increasing access to the drug by Iranians. In addition, there is no social stigma attached to opium use in the country, making harm reduction programs almost ineffective. Current efforts seek to create a change in perceptions of harm over time. Dr. Momtazi plans to use his time with mentor Richard A. Rawson, Ph.D., Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, University of California, Los Angeles, to gain experience in questionnaire construction, sampling strategies, and data analysis.
  • One of only 12 psychiatrists in his country, Eugene Dordoye, MBChB, MGCPsych, Ghana, spoke of the easy access to alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs for Ghanaians. The country is a major hub of drug trafficking, which makes it easier to access illicit drugs. Additionally, many Ghanaians promote the cultural myth that marijuana is the “weed of wisdom.” Treatment options are lacking. Twelve-step programs are rudimentary, and national policies on alcohol and drug abuse are in the draft stages. Dr. Dordoye plans to use his Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship to obtain knowledge and skills needed to construct a baseline survey to determine the extent of drug abuse in the country and to explore the value of the extended family system for recovery.
  • Tin Moe Aung, MBBS, Burma (Myanmar), a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, spoke of the state of tobacco and drug use in a nation of more than 54.5 million people. Substance use takes many forms in the region. Chewing betel quid (a leafy vine that has a mild stimulant effect) and smoking watery tobacco, hand-rolled cheroots cigars, and cigarettes are common. Heroin is the more common nontobacco drug of abuse, with amphetamines, marijuana, dextromethorphan, and glue inhalants following. A 2010 national report found that more than 300,000 people were dealing with some type of addiction; however, Dr. Aung noted that number is likely quite small given the prevalence of HIV among the population. She went on to explain the difficulties in collecting data, largely due to the many remote areas of Burma (Myanmar) and the communication, transportation, and social barriers seen in the region. The existing measures—drug demand reduction, drop-in centers, harm reduction programs, and rehabilitation centers—do not do enough to combat these challenges.

During the orientation, the fellows also heard from representatives of the NIDA divisions about their offices’ international research priorities and opportunities for collaborative international research. Shana Potash, National Library of Medicine, briefed the fellows on online resources available to international users, and James Herrington, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Fogarty International Center, discussed the center’s research training and funding programs.

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

Upon reading NIDA’s popular publication, Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, NIDA INVEST Drug Abuse Research Fellow Saeed Momtazi, M.D., Iran, knew it would be useful to others involved in the field of substance abuse and addiction in the region. The publication provides scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including the many harmful consequences of drug abuse and the basic approaches that have been developed to prevent and treat the disease. The difficulty is that the publication is in English. So, Dr. Momtazi and his colleagues began a project to translate the publication, as well as several other NIDA materials, into their most common Persian language, Farsi. Once the translation is complete, the information will be available to the Persian drug abuse research community, just as it is to English-language scientists.

All of NIDA’s publications are in the public domain. That means that Dr. Momtazi and others interested in evidence-based drug abuse and addiction information can freely use the NIDA materials for their work and can reproduce them without first asking permission. NIDA simply asks that the Institute be cited as the source of the material.

In addition to The Science of Addiction, a wealth of information and downloadable publications are available on NIDA’s website. A sampling of other materials that may be of interest to the international research community include:

Gabriel Andreuccetti, a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the University of São Paolo Medical School, Brazil, has received the 2011 International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE)/World Health Organization Young Scholars Award.

He received the award for his paper, “Reducing the Legal Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit for Driving in Developing Countries: A Time for Change? Results and Implications Derived From a Time-Series Analysis (2001–10) conducted in Brazil,” published in the December 2011 issue of Addiction. In Brazil, a new law introduced in 2008 lowered the blood alcohol concentration limit for drivers from 0.06 to 0.02. Mr. Andreuccetti sought to determine whether the new limit had an impact on the prevalence of traffic accidents. Using autoregressive integrated moving averages, he analyzed nonfatal and fatal road accidents from January 2001 through June 2010. Based on his findings, the region had significant reductions in traffic injury and fatality rates after the new law was enacted.

The runner-up for the award was Hui Cheng, a research associate at the Institute of Mental Health, Peking University, China, for her paper “Harsh Physical Punishment as a Specific Childhood Adversity Linked to Adult Drinking Consequences: Evidence From China,” also published in Addiction, in 2010.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 award. To be eligible, the paper must have been published either online or in print form in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2012. The research reported should have been carried out predominantly in a low- or middle- income country, as specified by the World Bank classification. The deadline for receiving applications is July 31, 2012. For more details, including the full eligibility criteria and application procedure, visit the NIDA International Program’s page on the ISAJE/WHO Young Scholars Award or contact the ISAJE Executive Officer, Molly Jarvis, at

Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 Dutch Summer Institute on Alcohol, Drugs, and Addiction, a multidisciplinary summer training program in addiction research.

The Summer Institute, held this year from July 8–21, 2012, at the University of Amsterdam, is an intensive multidisciplinary program offering graduate-level and continuing professional development training in addiction, while promoting opportunities for international networking. The application deadline is April 15, 2012.

The NIDA International Program is offering one full scholarship (not including housing) to a U.S. participant. Detailed information about this scholarship will be available on the Summer Institute website in the coming weeks. Several scholarships also are available for international participants. Visit the Summer Institute website frequently since these opportunities will be added soon.

Embassies around the world are now accepting applications for the 2013–2014 NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellowship, which supports a 10-month training program for midcareer drug abuse professionals from eligible countries. The NIDA International Program partners with the U.S. State Department to support fellows who participate in a combination of academic courses at Virginia Commonwealth, Johns Hopkins, Emory, or Tulane universities, and a professional affiliation with an Institute grantee.

Drug abuse is a priority topic for the State Department, and research training remains central to the NIDA International Program mission. All of these Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship host universities have more space available than they have qualified applicants. Current and former NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows can help by encouraging appropriate candidates to apply and sharing information about this opportunity with relevant organizations in their home countries.

To learn more, visit the NIDA International Program's page on the NIDA Hubert H. Humphrey Drug Abuse Research Fellowship. To apply, contact the U.S. embassy or Fulbright Commission in your home country, or visit the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program website for more information. Be sure to ask for the substance abuse application package.

The NIDA International Program is offering to help candidates prepare competitive applications, a service that may be especially helpful for those whose applications have previously been declined. Detailed information about the service and contact information are available in the Preparing a Competitive Application Information Flyer.

NIDA International Forum, June 8-11, 2012, Palm Springs, California

Register for the 2012 NIDA International Forum to be held June 8–11, 2012. Cosponsored by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, this year’s agenda features speakers who will focus on new and emerging synthetic and natural drugs, such as synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (e.g., “spice”) and stimulants (e.g., cathinones).

Join us for the research symposium, interactive workshops, poster session, and networking activities highlighting NIDA-supported and other international drug abuse research.

The NIDA International Forum is held in conjunction with the 74th Annual Scientific Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD). The NIDA Forum and the CPDD meeting have their own registration and abstract submission processes. Please register separately for each meeting.

Internation InWomen's Group logo

Save the Date:
Friday, June 8, 2012,
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Palm Springs, California, USA

The 2012 Annual International Women’s and Children’s Health and Gender Working Group (InWomen’s) Conference will focus on global issues in the context for and treatment of substance abuse by women. The plenary session speaker is Cora Lee Wetherington, Ph.D., coordinator of the NIDA Women & Sex/Gender Research Program, which promotes the conduct, translation, and dissemination of drug abuse research on sex/gender differences and issues specific to women.

A panel of international researchers will report on projects that focus on children born to addicted mothers, drug use by women in the Republic of Georgia, and HIV risks among women in Russia. The NIDA International Program is providing partial support for the panelists, who are Trecia Wouldes, Ph.D., M.A., New Zealand; Irma Kirtadze, M.D., Republic of Georgia; and Olga V. Toussova, Ph.D., Russia.

Participants may choose two moderated discussion sessions from among eight options: (1) evidence-based, women-centered treatment; (2) women and co-occurring disorders; (3) family issues such as infant attachment or childhood trauma; (4) global issues related to health disparities; (5) evidence-based, young women-focused prevention; (6) perinatal substance abuse; (7) structural interventions that are working for women; and (8) gender-based, interpersonal violence and victimization.

The InWomen’s conference is held in conjunction with the NIDA International Forum and the 74th Annual Scientific Meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD), and cosponsored by the NIDA International Program, CPDD, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, RTI International, and Danya International.

Register for the InWomen meeting now.

Scientists report a growing number of email messages containing fake conference invitations. It appears that the ultimate goal for these scammers is access to personal and financial information. The emails, on first glance, appear to be legitimate invitations to relevant and important meetings or conferences. Upon closer inspection, however, people have begun to notice subtle clues that suggest the invitation may not be real. In some cases, the scammers ask for a conference fee. In more sophisticated scams, the “conference organizer” offers airfare and accommodations. Unsuspecting recipients who agree to the free offers send in their personal or financial information, such as their passport number or credit card number, to the “conference organizer.”

Scamming has become an art. The emails are designed to attract the interest of their recipients. Clues that an email may be a scam include:

  • Internet URLs that are almost, but not quite, the same as legitimate institutions or organizations. In some cases, it is just the ending suffix, such as .gov or .eu, that has been changed.
  • Misspelled names of scientists or professors.
  • The topic of the conference has little to do with your area of expertise.
  • The website features letters from “invited speakers” who confirm their participation using identical wording.

If you think the invitation may be suspect, check it out. Contact colleagues or the speakers and professors listed as presenters to see if the invitation is legitimate.

Argentina Elisa N. Servin Aguirre, M.D., has been named the first U.S.–Mexico Drug Abuse Prevention Research Fellow. The new fellowship is a collaborative effort of NIDA and the National Institute of Psychiatry Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, along with participation from the National Commission Against Addictions (CONADIC) and the Society for Prevention Research.

Dr. Servin Aguirre will work in the United States for 12 months, focusing her training to prepare her to develop, implement, and assess HIV prevention efforts among vulnerable populations in Mexico. She will conduct her research with two mentors, Steffanie A. Strathdee, Ph.D., and Jay G. Silverman, Ph.D., both at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), whose backgrounds and skills will complement each other in meeting Dr. Selvin Aguirre’s goals for the fellowship. Dr. Strathdee is the associate dean of global health sciences, Harold Simon Professor, and chief of the Division of Global Public Health in the Department of Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine. Dr. Silverman is professor of medicine and global public health at UCSD.

Dr. Servin Aguirre’s proposed project is a series of secondary data analyses embedded in a NIDA-funded project. The aims of the research are twofold: (1) to characterize female sex workers who inject drugs (FSW-IDUs) and are living with dependent children in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, and identify correlates of living with dependent children that could predispose them to health and social harms; and (2) to describe patterns and correlates of intergenerational sex work and drug use among FSW-IDUs in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Findings from her studies will be used to write a grant application to develop and pilot a prevention intervention with FSW-IDUs and their children that will be submitted for consideration to the Fogarty International Center.

New INVEST Drug Abuse Research Fellow Sujung Yoon, M.D., Ph.D., South Korea, will spend 12 months under the mentorship of Perry F. Renshaw, F.M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., The Brain Institute, University of Utah, to focus on the application of multinuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy markers of brain health in response to treatment.

Dr. Yoon and Dr. Renshaw have already been working together evaluating the effects of citicoline and, based on their findings in methamphetamine-dependent adolescents, plan in the next year to assess the effects of citicoline as a cognitive enhancer for patients with methamphetamine dependence. Dr. Yoon will focus specifically on the application of multinuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy markers of brain health in response to treatment.

The Advanced Certificate Program in Research Ethics for Central and Eastern Europe, a collaboration of Union Graduate College of Mount Sinai School of Medicine (USA) and Vilnius University (Lithuania), which is supported by the Fogarty International Center, has released its first downloadable graduate-level course in international bioethics.

This online course provides students with an overview of the historical and theoretical foundations of bioethics. The materials are provided in Moodle format, an open-source (free) course management system. Therefore, anyone interested in providing bioethics education is welcome to review, adapt, use, and disseminate the materials.

The Advanced Certificate Program plans to release two additional online courses for public use, International Research Ethics 1 and 2. In addition, translated versions—Croatian, Georgian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Russian, and Serbian—of selected course materials will be available for download soon. To download the international bioethics course or to read the overview and sample syllabus, visit the Advanced Certificate Program website.

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

Application Deadlines

Fogarty International Center

NIDA International Program Fellowships