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National Institute on Drug Abuse -  NIDA NOTES
Volume 11, Number 2
March/April 1996

Constituent Groups Join Forces with NIDA to Bridge the "Great Disconnect"

By Margi Grady, NIDA NOTES Associate Editor

Representatives of 43 organizations met with NIDA senior staff in January to map strategies to bridge the "great disconnect," the gap between public perceptions and the scientific facts about drug abuse and addiction. The meeting, NIDA's second annual Constituent Conference, is one of many events that the Institute is holding around the Nation to try to close that gap. Additional meetings are planned with treatment providers, State and local policymakers, the media, and prevention and treatment groups. (For more on the great disconnect, see the Director's Column)

NIDA Director Dr. Alan I. Leshner asked conference participants to join forces with the Institute to spread the word that drug abuse is a preventable behavior and that drug addiction is a disease of the brain. He characterized drug addiction as a complex condition, "a brain disease expressed in behavioral ways that occurs in a social context." Unfortunately, the behavioral and social aspects give rise to intense public debate about drug abuse and addiction, which often overshadows the scientific facts, he said. Dr. Leshner pledged NIDA's commitment to replacing misconceptions with science by informing and educating the public about the Institute's drug abuse research.

The conference provided participating organizations with a unique platform for voicing concerns and ideas about the drug abuse research field, both to NIDA staff and to each other. Participating organizations represented laboratory scientists, physicians, nurses, psychologists, anthropologists, social scientists, government officials, counselors, social workers, and patient advocates.

Acknowledging the diversity of the participants, Dr. Leshner charged them to look for "some similar messages that we might start to use in concert when we talk about drug abuse and addiction. . . . If we're going to bridge this disconnect, we are going to have to do it as a field," he said.

Participants met informally in small groups during the 2-day meeting in Lansdowne, Virginia, to discuss ways that they could work with NIDA to close the disconnect. They also formulated preliminary recommendations for ways NIDA can ensure effective use of its research in real-life settings.

Dr. Leshner submitted a "report card" that summarized NIDA's progress on a wide range of activities recommended at the first conference a year ago. For example, over the past year the Institute has:

  • funded Medications Development Research Centers at Yale University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas at Houston, Columbia University, and the Los Angeles Addiction Treatment Research Center;

  • collaborated with the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish a network of Substance Abuse Medications Development Research Centers to evaluate the safety of medications, primarily for treating cocaine addiction;

  • issued a program announcement with the National Institute of Mental Health calling for research on comorbidity, and sponsored several meetings on aspects of comorbidity;

  • expanded the size and authority of its Office on AIDS, made AIDS researchers at other NIH Institutes more aware of the importance of considering drug abuse issues in their research, sponsored a number of meetings on drug abuse and AIDS, and issued six program announcements soliciting research on aspects of drug abuse and AIDS;

  • established a new Behavioral and Cognitive Science Research Branch in the Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research, and issued a request for applications to broaden basic behavioral science research;

  • supported new and ongoing research to identify familial and environmental factors associated with drug abuse, and continued support of a variety of prevention programs;

  • issued three new program announcements on various aspects of health services research, and funded two new health services research centers, including one on managed care;

  • made it a priority to encourage and fund research on managed care and other aspects of drug abuse treatment services;

  • increased its funding for national Research Service Awards and for pre- and postdoctoral fellowships and trainees;

  • increased membership on the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse to represent a broader range of disciplines;

  • participated in numerous meetings in conjunction with constituent organizations to disseminate NIDA-sponsored research findings;

  • convened the National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research, and provided informational materials on marijuana use to adolescents, parents, and communities;

  • developed television public service announcements about marijuana abuse in collaboration with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and produced four videos on various drug abuse topics; and

  • developed a Home page, available on the Internet through the World Wide Web.

Participants at NIDA's 1996 Constituent Conference

The 43 organizations below were represented at NIDA's second Constituent Conference, up from 32 groups at the first conference last year.

  • American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

  • American Academy of Family Physicians

  • American Anthropological Association

  • American College of Physicians

  • American Foundation for AIDS Research

  • American Methadone Treatment Association, Inc.

  • American Nurses Association

  • American Psychiatric Association

  • American Psychological Association

  • American Psychological Society

  • American Public Health Association

  • American Society of Addiction Medicine

  • American Sociological Association

  • Association for Health Services Research

  • Association of Black Psychologists

  • Black Psychiatrists of America

  • Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse at Columbia University

  • College on Problems of Drug Dependence

  • Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America

  • Consortium of Social Science Associations

  • Drug Strategies

  • Entertainment Industries Council, Inc.
  • Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research

  • Legal Action Center

  • National Alliance of Methadone Advocates, Inc.

  • National Asian and Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse

  • National Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors

  • National Association of Social Workers

  • National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Inc.

  • National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors

  • National Council of La Raza

  • National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association

  • National Families in Action

  • National Medical Association

  • National Prevention Network

  • Operation Par, Inc.

  • Partnership for a Drug-Free America

  • Society for Applied Anthropology

  • Society for Neuroscience

  • Society for Prevention Research

  • Society for the Advancement of Women's Health Research

  • Therapeutic Communities of America

From NIDA NOTES, March/April, 1996

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