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NIDA in the News

January 2010

Research News

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Salvinorin A Causes Rapid, Short-Lasting Sedation in Non-Human Primates
Salvinorin A is the main biologically active compound in the hallucinogenic plant Salvia divinorum. While it's believed that salvinorin A exerts its effects on the brain by activating kappa opioid (κ-opioid) receptors, the behavioral effects of salvinorin A in people have not been well characterized. To better understand these behavioral effects, researchers funded by NIDA administered intravenous doses of salvinorin A to rhesus monkeys, whose brains are similar to those of humans. Intravenous injections of salvinorin A induced sedation in a dose-dependent manner, with the largest dose of the compound inducing the greatest sedation. Read More ⇒

Traumatic Brain Injury is an Understudied Risk Factor for Drug Abuse
A large body of research has established that drug and alcohol use are risk factors for traumatic brain injury (TBI). In contrast, whether TBI increases the risk of substance abuse in people who were not abusing drugs before experiencing a TBI is unclear. With the number of TBI survivors in the United States increasing dramatically due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more research in this field is urgently needed, explain investigators from NIDA's Intramural Research Program in a recent review article. Read More ⇒

CREB Protein Activity in the Nucleus Accumbens Shell Mediates Environmental Cues Associated with Nicotine
Environmental cues are thought to contribute to continued tobacco use-for example, a smoker is likely to crave a cigarette when entering a place in which he or she most often smoked. The nucleus accumbens (NAc) shell is an area of the brain in which dopamine release is thought to be activated by nicotine and by environmental cues associated with smoking. A molecule called CREB is thought to play a role in environmental associations with smoking, but its exact function has not been clear. To understand whether CREB is required for environmental associations with smoking, researchers funded by NIDA performed a series of conditioned place preference (CPP) experiments using mice. Read More ⇒

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News Releases

NIDA Director Honored By French Government With Top Science Award For Addiction Research
NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow was awarded the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science. Dr. Volkow received the award at a December 17 ceremony at the College of France Learning Center in Paris. Read More ⇒

Teen Methamphetamine Use, Cigarette Smoking at Lowest Levels in NIDA's 2009 Monitoring the Future Survey
Methamphetamine use among teens appears to have dropped significantly in recent years, according to NIDA's annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, released December 14 at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington. However, declines in marijuana use have stalled, and prescription drug abuse remains high, the survey reported. The MTF survey is a series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan under a grant from NIDA. Read More ⇒

NIDA Stimulus Grant to Assess the Benefits of Counseling with HIV Screening
Public health experts encourage everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 to be HIV tested. Researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the San Francisco Department of Public Health will determine whether receiving a rapid HIV test and counseling offers healthier outcomes than rapid testing alone, with a $12.3 million grant awarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant is being funded by NIDA. Read More ⇒

NIDA Launches New Substance Abuse Resources to Help Fill Gaps in Medical Education
The rigors of medical training sharpen a doctor's ability to diagnose and treat a wide variety of human afflictions. However, drug abuse and addiction are often insufficiently covered in medical school curricula, despite the fact that drug use affects a wide range of health conditions and drug abuse and addiction are themselves major public health issues. To improve drug abuse and addiction training of future physicians, NIDA unveiled a series of new teaching tools, through its Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (NIDA CoEs), at the Association of American Medical Colleges 2009 Annual Meeting's "Innovations in Medical Education" Exhibit in Boston. Read More ⇒

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Hot News

2009 Monitoring the Future Results Announced
Monitoring the Future press conference - cameras
Monitoring the Future press conference - Dr. Nora Volkow
Monitoring the Future press conference - press room
The results of this year's Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey were unveiled at a press conference December 14 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Featured speakers included NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy R. Gil Kerlikowske, and the study's principal investigator, Lloyd D. Johnston, Ph.D. In addition, a local high school senior gave remarks about the importance of the MTF survey to students. Coverage of the event was extensive with final print and online impressions totaling over 10 million, including stories from the following outlets (among numerous others): NBC, MSNBC, CBS, CNN, National Public Radio, Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Dow Jones Newswire and HealthDay News. In addition, Dr. Volkow answered questions about the survey results for the web blog "Addiction Inbox," a highly-popular and well-regarded blog which has over 7,000 websites that link to it.

NIDA Sponsors Virtual Town Hall Event
NIDA virtual town hall
To promote community-wide involvement in drug abuse prevention efforts, NIDA hosted a live, virtual town hall meeting to showcase effective evidence-based drug abuse prevention approaches. The webcast was viewed by health, science and justice reporters to learn how effective approaches are changing U.S. communities. The virtual town hall offered top federal prevention experts a chance to interact with citizens and local representatives who have seen impressive results in their own communities. This event followed the September 7 release of results from the Community Youth Development Study, the first randomized trial of the model for implementing prevention programs known as Communities That Care. The study was supported by a research grant from NIDA with co-funding from other NIH Institutes and from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. View video from the Town Hall ⇒

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Publications & Website News

NIDA Notes logo

NIDA Notes
The latest issue of NIDA Notes, Vol. 22, No. 6, is available on NIDA's website. This issue begins with a description of research from several laboratories that links contrasting smoking patterns with variations in half a dozen genes that dictate the structure of the brain receptor to which nicotine binds. The results suggest that genes for several receptor subunits drive different aspects of the multi-step process of nicotine addiction. Also included in the issue is a feature reporting that a checkup system provided after treatment for substance abuse may be especially beneficial for clients with co-occurring mental disorders. Another feature presents evidence that highly active antiretroviral therapy is as useful in combating HIV in people who use illicit injection drugs as in other people infected with the virus. The issue also includes a report that proliferation of a rare receptor may underlie the intensification of craving that cocaine abusers experience during their first weeks of abstinence. In the Director's Perspective, Dr. Volkow notes NIDA's 35th Anniversary, listing the Institute's major accomplishments and describing current challenges. View the publication ⇒

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Who's Who at NIDA

Jacques Normand, Ph.D Photo

Jacques Normand, PhD,
NIDA's Director, AIDS Research Program

This month What's New @ NIDA talks with Jacques Normand, PhD, NIDA's Director, AIDS Research Program.

Q: What percentage of NIDA's research portfolio is dedicated to HIV/AIDS?

A: About 33% of NIDA research portfolio is HIV/AIDS.

Q: What is the primary focus of the NIDA HIV/AIDS research?

A: The number one priority is HIV prevention.

Q: Are we getting innovative research from the Avant-Garde awards?

A: Yes, very much so. Most projects deal with basic biomedical issues.

Q: Tell us about the "Seek and Treat" RFP—what is it and what do you hope to accomplish from it?

A: This initiative solicits R01 applications to empirically test the seek, test, and treat paradigm in criminal justice populations. The seek, test, and treat model involves reaching out to high risk, hard-to-reach groups who have not been recently tested (seek), engaging them in HIV testing (test), and initiating, monitoring, and maintaining HAART (Highly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy) for those testing positive (treat). Researchers are encouraged to develop, implement, and test strategies to increase HIV testing and the provision of HAART to HIV seropositive individuals involved in the criminal justice system, with particular focus on continuity of HAART during and after community re-entry following incarceration. Key outcome measures include linkage to care (e.g., seen at care centers post-release) and viral suppression (e.g., proportion with undetectable viral load 6 months or more after initiation of ART).

Q: What kind of collaboration do you do with NIAID, the CDC and other government agencies?

A: Most of our collaborations with NIAID involve co-funding large research networks or cohort studies. CDC collaborations involve keeping both agencies informed about what each one is doing and collaborating on initiatives that are of mutual interest.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?

A: The ability to make a difference in addressing a very important public health problem.

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