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National Institute on Drug Abuse - NIDA NOTES
Director's Column
Volume 16, Number 4 (October 2001)

NIDA Director, Alan I. Leshner

NIDA is committed to making sure that the crucial information we develop through scientific inquiry is part of a message that is heard by many audiences.

Countering Abuse and Addiction With Information Audiences Can Use

By NIDA Director Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D.

NIDA’s quarter century of research has produced a basic unequivocal message–drug addiction is a treatable brain disease. That message is being heard: A survey of public attitudes toward illegal drug use and drug treatment, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that 62 percent of those surveyed now say that drug abuse can successfully be treated by health care professionals.

NIDA’s message is built on our increasing science-based knowledge of drug abuse, addiction, prevention, and treatment. As we gain understanding, NIDA will continue to expand the effort to deliver specifically tailored messages in language that diverse audiences can understand and use to make informed decisions and work effectively to counter drug use.

For school-age children, the message must be colorful and engaging. NIDA’s Mind Over Matter series includes eye-catching materials developed to help students in grades five through nine learn about the brain’s complex responses to specific drugs. The series provides information about methamphetamine, inhalants, hallucinogens, marijuana, opiates, nicotine, stimulants, and steroids. NIDA is developing similar material for both younger and older students. The “Brain Power!” series (see “Tools for Schools: NIDA’s Drug Abuse Education Information for Teachers,” p. 15) will provide children from kindergarten to grade five with age-appropriate information on science and what science reveals about the effects of drugs on the brain. For high school students, we have developed a new curriculum supplement that incorporates research on brain imaging, neurotransmitters, drugs’ effects on brain chemistry, the role that environmental influences can play in addiction, and case studies on treatment options (see the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education curriculum supplements at

For parents and educators, our message must also be useful and instructive. All of the material NIDA produces for school-age children is accompanied by material that helps parents and teachers explain to children about drugs and drug abuse. In addition, NIDA has developed prevention manuals designed for use in homes, schools, and communities. NIDA’s science-based guide, Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents, describes prevention principles that can be used to develop a prevention program specifically tailored to meet community needs. Public response has been tremendous. Since its publication, more than 300,000 copies of this 38-page booklet have been distributed to schools and communities across the country. Additional requests average nearly 20,000 each month.

When we speak to treatment providers, our message must be delivered in the language of experience. To assure that they have available the most current science-based approaches, NIDA has initiated a series of treatment manuals for drug addiction to facilitate the rapid application of basic findings in clinical settings. These manuals are based on therapies that have demonstrated their effectiveness in NIDA supported treatment studies and are intended for use by drug abuse treatment practitioners, mental health professionals, and other health care providers. To lay the foundation for these manuals, Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide was published in 1999. The 54-page booklet describes the conditions required for effective drug abuse treatment, describes the most common types of drug addiction treatment, identifies treatment approaches for which there is strong scientific evidence of effectiveness, and answers the questions about treatment that are asked most frequently by providers, policymakers, patients, and the public.

When we speak to researchers and policymakers, our message must be precise and authoritative. NIDA NOTES is NIDA’s flagship publication. It regularly provides accurate and succinct descriptions of major research findings, program initiatives, and policy developments to nearly 100,000 subscribers in education, research, public health, and local, State, and Federal government.

NIDA NOTES soon will be joined by a peer-reviewed journal that will focus on the collaborative intersection of research and practice that is the core of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network and the new National Drug Abuse Prevention Research Initiative. The new publication will help tear down barriers between laboratory research and clinical practice and replace them with constructive partnerships and productive interchanges.

NIDA’s message is not limited to ink and paper. NIDA’s home page on the World Wide Web represents the electronic gateway to a full spectrum of information on abuse and addiction. Visitors to the site can view and download our Mind Over Matter materials, treatment and prevention manuals, NIDA NOTES, our series of Research Reports, the Infofax series of fact sheets, press releases on new research findings and program initiatives, and other sources of reliable information–much of it available in both English and Spanish. NIDA’s home page serves more than 30,000 visitors each day, and we have made the Web an integral component of new initiatives with sites like and

NIDA is committed to making sure that the crucial information we develop through scientific inquiry is part of a message that is heard by many audiences, in language that makes the information understandable, engaging, useful, and, ultimately–used.

NIDA NOTES - Volume 16, Number 4

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