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NIDA in the News

September 2009

Research News

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HIV Prevalence at the United States - Mexico Border May Change the HIV Epidemic in Mexico
The rapidly changing HIV subepidemic at the border of the United States and Mexico, likely caused by population mobility and the drug and sex trades, may be rapidly affecting the overall HIV epidemic in Mexico. In a recent editorial, NIDA-funded researchers discussed studies of HIV infection at the United States - Mexico border in an effort to better understand factors shaping individual and network-level risks for acquiring HIV. Read More ⇒

Denicotinized Cigarettes Affect Nicotine Receptors in Smokers' Brains
Nicotine is thought to exert its effects on the brain by binding to receptors in the brain called nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). However, tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals besides nicotine, some of which may also bind to the nAChRs or cause molecules normally found in the body to bind to these receptors. To study the effects of denicotinized cigarettes–cigarettes from which nicotine has been removed—on a specific type of nAChR (a4b2* nAChRs), researchers funded in part by NIDA used a brain imaging technique known as positron emission tomography (PET) to visualize these receptors in the brains of smokers during withdrawal and after smoking either low-nicotine or denicotinized cigarettes. Read More ⇒

Persistent Brain Changes in Response to Cocaine Depend on Expectation of Reward
Drug addiction dramatically shifts a person's attention, priorities, and behaviors toward a focus almost entirely on seeking out and taking drugs. An animal study funded by NIDA has identified some of the specific long-term adaptations in the brain's reward system that may contribute to this shift. Using an animal model of addiction, investigators were able to distinguish brain changes in rats trained to self-administer cocaine versus those that were trained to self-administer natural rewards such as food or sucrose for several weeks. The investigators also were able to look at how much the expectation of receiving the drug influenced those brain changes by comparing rats trained to self-administer the drug versus those that received the same amount of cocaine but received it passively by infusion (that is, they could not control their own drug taking by self-administration). Read More ⇒

Middle School Interventions Reduce Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs
The rates of nonmedical use of prescription drugs among adolescents and young adults in the United States are alarmingly high. Researchers funded in part by NIDA examined whether several universal drug abuse preventive interventions for middle school-age youth could reduce their future nonmedical use of prescription drugs. The interventions, which were administered to both middle school-aged children and their families, were tested in two randomized, controlled studies conducted in the rural Midwest. The first study tested two different family-based interventions, the Preparing for the Drug Free Years (PDFY) program and the Iowa Strengthening Families Program (ISFP), which focus on teaching families about risk and protective factors for substance use. The second study compared the school-based Life Skills Training (LST) intervention program with the Strengthening Family Program for Parents and Youth 10 - 14 (SFP), a revised version of the family-based ISFP, plus the school-based LST programs. Read More ⇒

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News Releases & Media Advisories

NIH and VA Announce $7 Million Partnership for Substance Abuse Research among Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families
Two federal departments have joined forces to create a first-time collaborative funding project to support research on substance abuse and associated problems among U.S. military personnel, veterans and their families. NIDA, in partnership with two other NIH Institutes -- the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) -- are jointly collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a seven million dollar funding opportunity announcement for research in this area. Read More ⇒

NIDA Study Shows School-Based Prevention Program Reduces Problem Behaviors in Fifth Graders By Half
A study suggests that school-based prevention programs begun in elementary school can significantly reduce problem behaviors in students. Fifth graders who previously participated in a comprehensive interactive school prevention program for one to four years were about half as likely to engage in substance abuse, violent behavior, or sexual activity as those who did not take part in the program. The study, supported by NIDA, appeared in the August 2009 print issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Read More ⇒

NIDA Study Suggests Low-Key Anti-Smoking Ads Are More Likely to Be Remembered than Attention-Grabbing Messages
For the first time, preliminary research using brain-imaging technology has shown that low-key and attention-grabbing anti-smoking public service announcements stimulate different patterns of activity in smokers' brains and that smokers are more likely to remember seeing the low-key PSAs. The study, published May 15, 2009 in the journal NeuroImage, was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Cancer Institute, both components of the National Institutes of Health. Read More ⇒

NIDA Study Reveals Widespread Effects of Cocaine on Genome Structure and Function
Repeated use of addictive drugs such as cocaine causes long-lasting changes in parts of the brain involved in motivation and reward, among others, yet the precise mechanisms by which these changes are maintained are poorly understood. A new study by scientists supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), published May 14, 2009 in the journal Neuron, sheds light on this process by providing fundamental new insights into the effects of cocaine on the structure and function of the genome, the complete set of DNA instructions needed to make an organism. Read More ⇒

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Hot News

NIDA's YouTube Channel
YouTube page

NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications has worked over the past few years to create a variety of public education videos and PSAs – these can be found on various pages at and Some of these videos feature Dr. Volkow and other NIDA scientists. To date, 24 videos have been posted – and all can now be seen in one place on the YouTube channel. View the Videos ⇒

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Other News

Intramural Research Program (IRP) Student Poster Day
poster day photo
On August 4, the IRP summer interns presented posters representing their research experience to staff at the Biomedical Research Center atrium in Baltimore. Many of these interns also participated in the NIH Summer Research Program Poster Day held on August 6 in the Natcher Center at the NIH campus.

CBS Sports logo
CBS College Sports Network Outreach
 Brian Marquis on NIDA's communications team worked with CBS College Sports Network to encourage them to air NIDA's public service announcements (PSAs) about steroid abuse. Four PSAs (in varying lengths) were provided to the network which aired them during both local and national commercial breaks. To date, the spots have aired more than 300 times. CBS College Sports Network is a 24-hour cable network dedicated to college sports and covers over 25 men's and women's sports. The network has more than 30 million subscribers and is available in 80 million homes in markets on cable and satellite systems across the country.

NIDA Teams with Taylor Hooton Foundation
NIDA's Brian Marquis also met with Don Hooton, CEO of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, in May to discuss collaboration on distribution of NIDA age-appropriate steroid materials and messages. As a result, Brian was a VIP at the Washington Nationals game on July 22 where Don delivered a Hoot's Chalk Talk assembly to about 35 kids from the Washington, D.C. area. Hoot's Chalk Talk is the name of a family of programs that have been created to raise awareness and provide education on the subject of anabolic steroid and other performance enhancing drugs (PED's) use by the youth of America. It is the Foundation's goal, in conjunction with its partners, to deliver this program at every major high school in America.


The Taylor Hooton Foundation was formed in memory of Taylor E. Hooton, a 17-year old high school athlete from Plano, TX. Taylor took his own life on July 15, 2003, as a result of the abuse of anabolic steroids. This Foundation was founded by the parents, family and friends of Taylor after his death when the founders became aware of the magnitude of a growing problem among high school athletes across the country - the illegal use and abuse of anabolic steroids as a performance enhancement drug in addition to other PEDs.

For more information on the Foundation and the Hoot's Chalk Talk, visit

Dr. Ahmed Elkashef, Chief, Clinical Medical Branch of DPMCDA, and Dr. David Gorelick, senior investigator, Office of the Scientific Director, IRP
NIDA Staffers Certified By New Addiction Medicine Board
Dr. Ahmed Elkashef, Chief, Clinical Medical Branch of NIDA's Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse, and Dr. David Gorelick, senior investigator, Office of the Scientific Director at NIDA's Intramural Research Center, are among the first physicians in the United States certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), a new independent medical specialty board. ABAM recently began to certify addiction medicine physicians from several specialties, including emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, preventive medicine, psychiatry, neurology and surgery. Previously, addiction-related board certifications were only for psychiatrists, offered by the psychiatry and neurology board. As certified addiction specialists, Dr. Elkashef and Dr. Gorelick can provide prevention, diagnosis and treatment for substance use disorders related to alcohol, tobacco and other addicting drugs, including some prescription medications. On May 2, Dr. Volkow joined leadership of the new American Board of Addiction Medicine in New Orleans, LA to present certificates to the nation's first board-certified Addiction Medicine physicians.

Addiction Science Award photo

NIDA Science Fair Winners Honored
Dr. Volkow officially awarded the NIDA/Friends of NIDA Addiction Science Award to Science Fair winners on August 4 in the Director's conference room. The winning student presentations were originally announced at the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held in Reno in May. The young scientists and their projects included:

  • First Place: "A Cytogenic Analysis of Genetic Mutation Induced by Cigarette Smoke in Drosophila Melanogaster," by Sehar Anjum Salman and Jada Nicole Dalley, juniors at Keystone High School in San Antonio, Texas.
  • Second Place: "The Effect of Human Methamphetamine Usage on Carnivore Scavenging." by junior Daniel Jeffrey Martin at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Third place: "Complex Evaluation of Danger and Tranquility in Urban Settings: An Immunocomputing Intelligence Approach," by 18-year-old Lucia Mocz, a senior at Mililani High School in Mililani, Hawaii, who will be attending Harvard University in the fall.

International AIDS Society (IAS) advertisement
First Drug Use and HIV Research Fellowships Awarded
NIDA and the International AIDS Society (IAS) announced the recipients of their prestigious joint fellowships in July at the IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Cape Town, South Africa. The fellowships were awarded to Professor Maria Gudelia Rangel of Mexico and Kenya's Dr. Michah Ongeri Oyaro. NIDA and the IAS established a research fellowship to advance the scientific understanding of drug use and HIV, while fostering multinational research on this linkage. Dr. Oyaro, who holds a Ph.D. in molecular virology, was awarded $75,000 to undertake an 18-month post doctoral training under the supervision of Dr. John Wylie at Cadham Provincial Laboratory in Winnipeg, Canada. During his tenure, Dr. Oyaro's work will focus on social networks, status and molecular epidemiology of HIV, HBV and HCV infections among drug users in Kenya. Professor Rangel is a Professor and Research associate at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. A widely published and respected behavioral scientist, Professor Rangel has spent more than 15 years working in the field of HIV, migration, and related topics. The $75,000 provided for an eight month fellowship will enable her to extend her work into the field of substance use and HIV infection, and conduct research that could contribute to social public policy development in Baja California, Mexico. She will conduct her research under the mentorship of Professor Steffanie Strathdee at the University of California, San Diego.

Dr. Bruce Hinds, University of Kentucky, and Dr. Gonzalo Torres, University of Pittsburgh
White House Honors Two NIDA Grantees
On July 9, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy announced NIDA grantees Dr. Bruce Hinds, University of Kentucky, and Dr. Gonzalo Torres, University of Pittsburgh, as two of the 100 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). This Presidential award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Awardees are selected on the basis of two criteria: pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and a commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. Winners receive an up-to-five-year research grant to further their study in support of critical government missions.

Dr. R. Dale Walker
Association of American Indian Physicians Honors NIDA Council Member
Dr. R. Dale Walker, a member of NIDA's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, was recently named 2009 Physician of the Year by the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP). Dr. Walker is the director of the One Sky Center and Center for American Indian Health Education Research at Oregon Health & Science University. The award honors him for "distinguished service and commitment to improving the quality of health care for Native Americans and Alaska natives." Walker, who is Cherokee, also was named Indian Physician of the Year in 1989. He is one of two American Indian psychiatrists in the nation certified in addictions treatment. Dr. Walker's research is focused on addictions and mental health issues among American Indians. His current efforts address the low number of Indian students in the health care fields and draws attention to best practices for the prevention and treatment of addition and mental health disorders among American Indians.

Plain Language Award photo
Plain Language Awards
On June 2, NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications received an NIH Plain Language Gold Award for an editorial about drug addiction stigma that was published in Science News. The editorial, entitled "It's Time for Addiction Science to Supersede Stigma," focused on how stigma associated with substance use disorders poses a huge obstacle to the effective translation of science-based principles into practice. The commentary was written to capture the cultural, scientific, and policy dimensions of this complex issue and to frame the smart, forward-looking strategies needed to put in motion in order to move past the stigma. The authors of the piece included Dr. Volkow, Ruben Baler, Susan Weiss, Gaya Dowling, Jessica Palmer, and Jennifer Elcano. The annual NIH Plain Language Award ceremony honors outstanding NIH communication products including revised websites, fact sheets, multi-media presentations, and other materials, including items designed for Spanish-speaking audiences. View the Editorial ⇒

NIDA Track Featured in APA Daily Bulletin
At this year's American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting held in San Francisco in May, an article about NIDA's track was included APA's Daily Bulletin. The track focused on the latest research on the identification and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. logo/th>
Summer Jobs Galore, Thanks to ARRA
NIH has released a summary of NIH summer grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which include participants in all 50 states, including D.C. and Puerto Rico. Here are the totals!

  • ~350 institutions (including small businesses)
  • ~1300 mentors

~5100 positions for FY09/10

  • High School ~830
  • College ~3570
  • Teachers ~700

Total Expenditure for the program ~$47.2M

  • OD ~$26.4M
  • ICs ~$20.8M

NIDA Meetings Calendar
To find out about upcoming NIDA meetings, symposia, seminars and workshops, visit on the NIDA website. The public website lists many NIDA sponsored meetings, other NIH meetings of interest, and the dates and other information for the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse meetings.

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Publications & Website News

Sara Bellum blog

NIDA Teen Blog
NIDA has launched the "Sara Bellum Blog" on its Teen Web site. The blog content is written and managed by NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications. New blog entries are posted a couple of times a week. This new format gives NIDA an opportunity to provide the latest scientific research and news, and to respond more quickly to public events that capture the attention of teens. Ideas for blog topics are encouraged and can be forwarded to Blog Editor Jennifer Elcano or Communications Chief Carol Krause. Comments to blog entries are welcome, but will be moderated. The blog can be found at

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