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Messages From the Director

NIDA's 35th Anniversary: Science Focused on Solutions

NIDA Director Nora Volkow

December 2009

This Director’s message has been adapted from NIDA NOTES (Volume 22, Number 6 - December 2009).

Congress created the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1974 to bring the power of science to bear against a burgeoning epidemic of drug abuse and addiction. The wisdom of that decision is evident in today's roster of proven effective interventions to prevent and treat addiction and in the increased public understanding that addiction is a chronic brain disease rather than a moral failure.

Since its inception, NIDA has funded and guided a comprehensive program of basic and clinical research involving many of the Nation's premier scientists and clinicians. Our goal is to apply the fruits of scientific discovery to real-world problems. Our mission also includes informing the Nation about the nature and dangers of drug abuse and addiction.

Among their major accomplishments, NIDA-supported researchers have:

  • Established and maintained national data collection systems to monitor patterns of drug abuse and identify population groups at risk.
  • Showed that all abused and addictive substances share certain neural and molecular effects. These findings and others on the particular effects of specific drugs led to the development of medications to treat opioid and nicotine addiction.
  • Identified principles of successful drug abuse prevention.
  • Advanced effective drug abuse treatments based on biological, developmental, social, and environmental factors.
  • Demonstrated that drug abuse treatment can reduce the spread of HIV and support effective treatment of HIV disease.
  • Applied genetics, epigenetics, and neuroimaging techniques to the study of drug abuse, opening up extraordinary opportunities for the development of new and increasingly individualized approaches to prevention and treatment.

Drug abuse evolves constantly as new drugs and new patterns of abuse emerge, each with new consequences for public health. In its 35 years, NIDA has responded to epidemics of cocaine, methamphetamine, and steroid abuse, as well as drugs' contributions to the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. Today, NIDA-funded researchers are seeking answers to the emergence of marijuana of unprecedented potency, rising prescription drug abuse, and the impact of combat stress on veterans' risk of drug involvement. In the future, as now and in the past, NIDA will engage each new challenge with comprehensive scientific strategies and the most advanced scientific tools and technologies to alleviate the impact of drugs on the health and prosperity of affected individuals, their families and communities, and the Nation.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

This page was last updated December 2009

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