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NIDA History and Background

Research Accomplishments

Keeping an eye on drug use trends among teens to guide intervention strategies. Substance abuse among American youth is a continually changing phenomenon. Through the Monitoring the Future Survey of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-grade students nationwide, NIDA continues to monitor these changes and identify emerging substance abuse problems to better guide effective intervention approaches. For example, while overall teen drug abuse showed a significant decline from the mid-1990’s to the mid to late 2000’s. However, recent years have seen an upward trend in marijuana use. 

Identifying the molecular sites and systems in the brain where every major drug of abuse has its effect. Such discoveries have led to the development and approval of nicotine replacement therapies for cigarette smoking cessation and new medications like buprenorphine, now prescribed by physicians in office settings, for opiate addiction.

Discovering a new communications network that opens the way to novel medical therapies. NIDA-supported research was pivotal to the discovery of a cannabinoid system distributed throughout the brain and body and composed of the body's own compounds that are chemically related to marijuana's active ingredient. This network promises new and novel interventions for a range of diseases and conditions, including addiction, obesity, pain, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety disorders.

Demonstrating that addiction is a treatable disease. Medications and behavioral therapies can provide long-lasting benefits for people trying to overcome addiction, especially when used together. Addiction treatment promotes continued abstinence, which can reverse some of the detrimental brain changes caused by addiction, as shown in pioneering imaging studies. Successful drug abuse treatment also reduces crime and other societal costs, including health costs, now in the billions.

Optimizing research findings to create individually tailored treatments. Researchers are taking advantage of ongoing discoveries from the Human Genome Project, identifying genetic markers of complex disorders, such as addiction. Now, gene variants are being discovered that can predict who will respond to a medication and who will not. These break throughs herald a new era of individualized therapies that will optimize outcomes, promote cost-efficiency, and relieve suffering.

Decreasing the spread of HIV. Through the development of treatments for injection drug use (IDU), NIDA has contributed to the decline in IDU-associated HIV infections. Innovative community-based research shows that drug abuse treatment reduces risk behaviors leading to HIV transmission; thus, drug abuse treatment is HIV/AIDS prevention.

Changing the course of drug abuse treatment in this country. NIDA engages in myriad efforts to "translate" the results of basic and clinical research for real-world use. Our goal is to get research-based treatments into the hands of providers in community treatment centers, the criminal justice system, and physicians' offices. To that end, NIDA has established collaborative networks of researchers and practitioners, Federal agencies, and State substance abuse directors to integrate research findings into drug abuse treatment settings nationwide.

NIDA Outreach and Education Activities

NIDA Notes logo

NIDA Notes, a newsletter that disseminates research findings to 100,000 professionals worldwide.

Marijuana: Facts for Teens and Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know, two of NIDA’s most popular publications. 

Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide cover

Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide, which describes the most successful concepts for preventing drug abuse among young people.

Mind Over Matter series for grades 5 through 9. The series, complete with a teacher’s guide, highlights the effects of drugs on the brain and encourages the study of science. Spanish translation also available.

Brain Power logo

Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program, for use in K – 5th-grade classrooms. 

Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, developed for use in local communities. The guide describes the most successful concepts for treating people with drug abuse and addiction problems. 

Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations cover image

Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide, summarizing proven components for successfully treating drug abusers who have entered the criminal justice system.

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior—The Science of Addiction discusses the reasons that people take drugs, why some people become addicted while others do not, how drugs work in the brain, and how addiction can be prevented and treated. The booklet is designed to educate the public and to reduce the stigma surrounding drug addiction. 

Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask offers guidance in seeking drug abuse treatment and lists five questions to ask when searching for a treatment program.

NIDA DrugPubs logo

For copies of any NIDA publications, contact DrugPubs via 877-NIDA-NIH or drugpubs@nida.nih.gov.

Drug Abuse and HIV: Learn the Link campaign to educate young people about the connection between substance abuse and HIV infection. Spanish language version available.

NIDA for Teens logo

“NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse,” an interactive Web site that includes information about various drugs of abuse and their consequences. Included in the website is PEERx, a place where teens can find interactive videos and other tools to help them make decisions about prescription drugs based on real-life situations they encounter at school and in life.

Easy-to-read website on drug abuse provides plain language information on neuroscience, drug abuse prevention and treatment and is also a resource for adult literacy educators: easyread.drugabuse.gov.

Family Checkup logo

Family Checkup, an online resource that equips parents with research-based skills to help keep their children drug-free: www.drugabuse.gov/family-checkup.

NIDA joins with HBO, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to produce the Emmy Award-winning documentary Addiction. The film explores drug and alcohol abuse through the eyes of those who suffer from this devastating disease, with the added perspective of scientific and clinical experts working to better understand and treat it.

Addiction Science Award logo

Addiction Science Awards, the first NIH awards given at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, the world’s largest high school science fair.

National Drug Facts Week logo

National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a health observance week for teens aimed to shatter the myths about drugs. Drug Facts Chat Day, held during NDFW, provides an online opportunity for students from around the country to ask questions about drugs and to have them answered by top NIDA scientists. drugfactsweek.drugabuse.gov

The Blending Initiative, a partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, accelerates the dissemination of research-based treatment findings into community-based practice. Blending Products can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/blending-initiative.

NM Assist logo

NIDAMED, NIDA's outreach to medical professionals, provides tools and resources to screen patients for tobacco, alcohol, illicit, and nonmedical prescription drug use, including an interactive online drug abuse screening tool: www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals

NIDAMED Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program provides scientifically accurate information on substance abuse, addiction and its consequences to help meet the educational needs of medical students, residents and medical school faculty: www.drugabuse.gov/coe/.

NIDA eTool Innovations for Provider Education logo

NIDA (along with the Office of National Drug Control Policy) launches online training tools for health care providers on proper prescribing and patient management practices for opioid analgesics (painkillers): www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed/etools.

This page was last updated December 2012