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Messages From the Director

Introduction

NIDA Director Nora Volkow

March 2004

I am pleased to have been selected to serve as the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and to have the opportunity to share with you my vision for the Institute over the next several years. As a component of the National Institutes of Health, NIDA has the critical role of supporting high quality research across a broad range of disciplines to reduce drug abuse and addiction and its related consequences. NIDA also has the responsibility for ensuring that research findings are rapidly and effectively translated and disseminated to practitioners. It is with the pursuit of fulfilling this dual mandate that I assume my new leadership role at NIDA.

It is an extraordinary time for science, with discoveries occurring at unprecedented speed. Breakthroughs in technology that were once in the realm of science fiction are allowing us to advance our understanding of the brain at an increasingly rapid pace. Every day, diseases that were previously little understood, such as obesity, diabetes, mental illnesses, and now addiction, are being conquered by science. Every advance that has been made, from the most basic finding about genes, receptors and reward circuitry, to the development of new pharmacological and behavioral therapeutic interventions, leads us to new questions that are starting to target the complex interactions between environmental-social variables and genetic-molecular processes in drug addiction.

NIDA will take full advantage of the explosion of knowledge that is occurring in the technology and biological research arena, from the Human Genome Project to the use of neuroimaging and 3-dimensional brain mapping models, to harness and use these tools and discoveries to bring the Nation even better prevention and treatment interventions. We will focus on piecing together one of the most critical puzzles in almost every disease model - the link between genes and the environment. By determining the genetic and environmental factors that make some individuals more vulnerable to drugs of abuse than others, we can develop new strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment that are tailored to the needs of the individual. Additionally, NIDA will tap into what we've come to learn from cognitive neuroscience to develop improved prevention and treatments models, which is especially relevant as we look for ways to address vulnerable populations, like children and adolescents, and individuals who suffer from other illnesses. By melding our understanding about drug craving and reward, for example, with our growing knowledge about behavioral and pharmacological approaches, we will have new models to rethink how to best translate our basic knowledge of addiction into clinical progress.

As we continue to develop and test what I hope to be many new interventions, we will look for both established and new ways to inform both clinical practice and public health with the latest science-based findings and treatments. We will collaborate with federal and private partners to harness resources and skills. We will look to invigorate the medical profession to become more involved in drug abuse issues, through clinical training efforts and by fostering new partnerships with physicians, clinical specialists, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists and biotechnology pioneers, among others, to ensure the application of research knowledge into improved medical care.

I look forward to working with the research community, the staff at NIDA, the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, other federal and local government agencies, health professionals, health services providers, the private sector, policy makers, members of the public and constituent organizations to help shape NIDA's research agenda. I also welcome the opportunity to work with the NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and the other Institutes at NIH to pursue collaborative activities, like the NIH Roadmap Project, which I believe will systematically change how we do research. I am also committed to ensuring that NIDA maintains the comprehensive research portfolio that is needed to deal with the many facets of the drug abuse and addiction problem, including preventing new HIV infections, and other blood borne diseases, such as hepatitis C. I know there will be many challenges along the way, but with the support and guidance of those committed to this issue, I will welcome and learn from them.

Sincerely,

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director

This page was last updated March 2004

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