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NIDA in the News

March 2011


Research News

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New method to differentiate new cannabis use from residual in chronic users
Researchers from NIDA, the Washington State Patrol (Breath Test Section) and Harvard University recently announced a new model for identifying new versus residual cannabis use in chronic, daily cannabis smokers. This model, which took over 18 years to develop, is based upon urinary creatinine-normalized (CN) cannabinoid excretion in chronic cannabis smokers. This will be an invaluable assessment tool for cannabis treatment programs, drug courts, probation officers and workplace drug testing programs. View the article (PDF) ⇒

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Press Releases

NIH-funded study shows early brain effects of HIV in mouse model
A new mouse model closely resembles how the human body reacts to early HIV infection and is shedding light on nerve cell damage related to the disease, according to researchers funded by NIH. The study in a March 2 Journal of Neuroscience demonstrates that HIV infection of the nervous system leads to inflammatory responses, changes in brain cells, and damage to neurons. This is the first study to show such neuronal loss during initial stages of HIV infection in a mouse model. Read More ⇒

Scientists peek deep into the living brain to look at cellular changes related to addiction, brain tumors
Researchers at Stanford University used time-lapse fluorescence microendoscopy, a technique that uses miniature probes to directly visualize specific cells over a period of time, to explore structural changes in neurons as a result of tumor formation and increased stimulation in the mouse brain. This new technique could lead to insights into mechanisms of neural adaptation, including those underlying addictive behaviors. Read More ⇒

Teen marijuana use increases, especially in 8th graders. Surpasses past-month usage of cigarettes in 12-graders.
Linda Watkins receiving award from Prince of Asturias
Fueled by increases in marijuana use, the rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year increased from last year, with daily marijuana use up in all grades surveyed, according to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF). For 12th-graders, declines in cigarette use accompanied by recent increases in marijuana use have put marijuana ahead of cigarette smoking by some measures. The survey, released at a December 14th news conference, also shows significant increases in use of Ecstasy. In addition, nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. Read More ⇒ | Read the Overview of Findings ⇒ | View the news conference ⇒

Buprenorphine treatment in pregnancy: less distress to babies
According to a recent study funded by NIDA, babies born to women addicted to opioids fare better when their mothers are treated with buprenorphine compared to methadone. Neonates had reduced withdrawal symptoms, and required less time in the hospital. Buprenorphine was found to be superior to methadone in reducing withdrawal symptoms in the newborns. The research project, called Maternal Opioid Treatment: Human Experimental Research (MOTHER), was one of the first to prospectively follow opioid-dependent pregnant women from enrollment until at least 28 days after giving birth. In all, the eight-site international study included 131 mothers and their newborns. Read More ⇒

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Notes to Reporters

A small network of neurons determines whether environment plays a crucial role in heroin relapse, a study in rats shows
A NIDA-funded study, published in Nature Neuroscience, found that a small subset of neurons in the rat brain helps to determine if drug-associated environmental cues will trigger heroin seeking in an animal model of relapse. Researchers used an innovative technique that allowed them to temporarily inactivate this small network of neurons to demonstrate the role they play in drug seeking behavior. The study was conducted at the NIDA IRP. View the Article ⇒

Advances in Addiction Research in latest Issue of Neuron
A recent edition of Neuron was devoted entirely to advances in addiction research. It included a commentary by NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow entitled “Addiction: Pulling at the Neural Threads of Social Behavior.” The commentary included letters she has received from people devastated by substance abuse. View the Article ⇒

New vaccine blocks cocaine’s effects in mice
A new vaccine, detailed in Molecular Therapy, combines a chemical that mimics cocaine with an inactive common cold virus to produce antibodies that engulf cocaine molecules in the blood, preventing them from entering the brain to activate the reward centers (thereby selectively blocking cocaine’s effects). This approach offers promise for the medical treatment of addiction to cocaine as well as other drugs. View the Article ⇒

New 3D map of dopamine receptor could aid in medication development
A new paper, published in Science, sheds light on the structure of the dopamine (D3) receptor molecule. This new understanding of the structure of the D3 receptor may help to develop new, more effective medications to treat a range of neuropsychiatric disorders, including addiction. View the Abstract ⇒

NIDA recognizes World AIDS Day 2010
Dr. Nora Volkow Discusses Research on the Link Between AIDS/HIV & Substance Abuse

Dr. Nora Volkow Discusses Research on the Link Between AIDS/HIV & Substance Abuse

On December 1, NIDA distributed a note to reporters announcing a series of videos posted to the NIDA website in support of World AIDS Day 2010. In these videos, experts discuss their research exploring the link between HIV/AIDS and drug abuse. Interviewees include Dr. Nora Volkow, Dr. Jacques Normand, and several NIDA grantees from across the nation. View the Director’s Message ⇒ | View the video interviews ⇒

What happens inside a smoker’s brain while watching an actor light up?
A new study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, used neuroimaging techniques to observe the brain activity of smokers and non-smokers while they watched a film that contains numerous scenes of smoking. When observing actors puffing on their cigarettes, the smokers showed increased activity in certain parts of the brain associated with the planning and initiation of smoking behaviors. These findings suggest that observing another person smoking might lead tobacco users to mimic these actions without even being aware they are doing so. Continued reinforcement of these habitual smoking behaviors may help to explain unsuccessful quit attempts. View the Article ⇒

New strategy for treating chronic pain might avoid opioids’ dangerous side effects
NIDA-funded researchers from the University of California, Irvine, University of Georgia and universities and institutes in Italy and Spain developed a compound, URB8937, which activates the peripheral cannabinoid system to relieve chronic pain in rats without producing any psychoactive effects. This new compound may be an alternative to current opioid medications, which have undesirable side effects ranging from nausea and drowsiness to respiratory suppression, tolerance and addiction. View the Article ⇒

New teaching resources on substance abuse and addiction for medical students
NIDA CoE logo
On January 20, NIDA issued a note to reporters describing the ten products created by NIDAMED Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (CoEs). These CoE resources aim to improve drug abuse and addiction training of future physicians and are offered in multiple formats, including a Web module, an OSCE, an interclerkship, problem and case-based studies, lectures, and a faculty workshop – all of which can be incorporated into existing medical curricula. View more information on NIDA’s CoE program ⇒

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Hot News

NIDA grantee receives prestigious White House award
Linda Watkins receiving award from Prince of Asturias

President Barack Obama poses for a group photo with the 2009 Recipients for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in the South Court Auditorium of the White House Dec. 13, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Dr. Mauricio Delgado of Rutgers University has been named one of the 85 researchers selected to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Mauricio Delgado

Dr. Mauricio Delgado
photo courtesy Rutgers

Delgado received his master and doctoral degrees in neuroscience from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a post-doctoral fellow at New York University before coming to Rutgers-Newark to head the Social and Affective Neuroscience laboratory.

Delgado has published in journals such as Nature Neuroscience, Science, the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, The Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron and Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. His NIDA-funded research uses functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques to better understand reinforcement mechanisms and avoidance responses associated with drug addiction.

Congratulations to Dr. Delgado on this much-deserved award. View the White House press release ⇒ | Read more about Dr. Delgado’s research ⇒

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Other News

NIDA’s Director and NIDA website receive kudos from Government Video.com
NIDA’s website was recently selected as “Website of the Week” by Government Video.com due to its continued efforts to help fight drug use and addiction. Dr. Nora Volkow received special mention for her continued efforts in combating this serious issue.

Awards from the Institute of Medicine
Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Founder and Chairman of the Board of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, was honored with the 2010 Gustav O. Lienhard Award for his leadership in increasing public awareness about the dangers of smoking and substance abuse. The award, established in 1986 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, honors outstanding achievement in improving personal health care services in the United States.

Dr. Joseph Califano, Jr.

Dr. Joseph Califano, Jr.
photo courtesy IOM

Two NIDA grantees, Dr. Eric Nestler and Dr. Charles O’Brien, received the 2010 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health for their efforts in helping to erase the stigma associated with addiction and their dedication to improve quality of care for substance abuse treatment programs. The prize was established in 1991 by Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat and recognizes outstanding achievement in improving mental health.

Drs. Eric Nestler & Charles O'Brien

Drs. Eric Nestler & Charles O'Brien
photos courtesy IOM

NIDA grantee receives award for public service
Dr. F. Ivy Carroll, scientist and Distinguished Fellow at RTI International, was awarded the third NIDA Public Service Award for Significant Achievement “[i]n gratitude and recognition of superb leadership and research advancing the science of drug abuse and addiction.” The award recognized Dr. Carroll’s 50 years of service at RTI, significant medicinal chemistry advances and contributions to addiction research.

Dr. Ivy Carroll presented with award by Dr. David Shurtleff

Dr. Ivy Carroll (left) presented with award by Dr. David Shurtleff
photo courtesy RTI

NIDA-funded Stanford researcher, predoc receive awards at 2010 Society for Medical Decision Making Annual Meeting
Linda Watkins receiving award from Prince of Asturias

Douglas Owens, MD
photo courtesy Stanford

NIDA grantee Dr. Douglas Owens, of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and the Department of Medicine at Stanford University, was awarded the John Eisenberg Award in Recognition of Exemplary Leadership in the Practical Application of Medical Decision-Making Research at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Medical Decision Making. The award recognizes Dr. Owens' contributions to the theory and application of medical decision-making in key areas including HIV prevention and treatment. His NIDA-funded work on expanded HIV screening was seminal in influencing a major change in US HIV screening guidelines, leading to large-scale support for "Seek, Test, Treat, and Retain" of HIV-positive persons in the U.S. and internationally.

Linda Watkins receiving award from Prince of Asturias

Sabina Alistar
photo courtesy Stanford

Sabina Alistar, a NIDA-funded doctoral student from the Management Science and Engineering Department at Stanford University, was awarded first prize in the Lee B. Lusted Student Prize Competition for Outstanding Presentation of Research at the same meeting. Her talk described "A Practical Tool for Allocating Funds for HIV Prevention and Treatment Scale Up." This work was done jointly with her advisor, Dr. Margaret Brandeau from Stanford University, and with Eduard J. Beck from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Ms. Alistar was chosen from more than 100 student oral and poster presenters.

NIDA grantee recognized by POZ magazine
NIDA-funded researcher Dr. Steffanie Strathdee was recently recognized on POZ magazine’s list of top 100 people that are “[s]ome of the bravest, most dogged and downright effective AIDS fighters we know” for her efforts to stop the spread of HIV along the U.S./Mexico border. View the article ⇒

NDFW Music Contest Winners go to the GRAMMYs!
NDFW Music Contest Winners
The winners of the National Drug Facts Week MusiCares® and GRAMMY Foundation's® Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest attended the rehearsal for the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in Los Angeles this past February. During their “Backstage Experience,” the winners met rapper “Drake” and watched Rihanna perform. PILB Chief Carol Krause also attended.

New publication now available
NIDA DrugPubs Logo
A new publication, entitled Serie de Reportes de Investigacion Abuso de inhalants (Research Report Series: Inhalant Abuse Spanish Version), is now available via the NIDA website or through NIDA DrugPubs. View the publication ⇒ | Order the publication ⇒

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