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NIDA in the News

September 2011

Press Releases

Second annual National Drug Facts Week begins Oct. 31st
National Drug Facts Week Logo
Teens and scientists will connect for NIDA’s second annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), held Oct. 31 through Nov. 6. This week-long observance brings together teens and leading researchers in community events across the U.S. to discuss scientific facts about drug abuse. Read More ⇒

A highlight of the week is the MusiCares® and GRAMMY Foundation® Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest. This year’s contest launched in May and to date has garnered mentions in print outlets including The Washington Post ⇒, dozens of Facebook posts and hundreds of Twitter nods, with tweets from songwriter Kara DioGuardi, MTV and Country Music Television. See Highlights ⇒

Scientists show how gene variant linked to ADHD could operate
A study using mice provides insight into how a specific receptor subtype in the brain could play a role in increasing a person's risk for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The research, conducted by NIDA’s IRP, could also help explain how stimulants work to treat symptoms of ADHD. Read more ⇒

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Research News

Brain mechanism could help explain how substance abuse is linked to mood disorders
New NIH-funded research, published in Neuron, shows that mice exposed repeatedly to cocaine have more severe depressive-like responses to social stress; possibly offering insight into why people addicted to drugs are often also diagnosed with mood disorders, such as depression. This relationship between repeated cocaine exposure and heightened stress reactivity appears to involve a common mechanism (histone methylation), which could provide a potential target to treat patients with the commonly co-occurring mood and substance use disorders. View the article ⇒

NIDA-funded study literally shines light on drug reward
A NIDA-funded study, published in Nature, used a cutting-edge optical technique to temporarily turn on and off specific brain circuits in mice, allowing scientists to see how these pathways contribute to reward-seeking behavior. A better understanding of these processes is key to developing medications that are more effective in alleviating drug addiction. View the article ⇒

Important role for dentists in preventing prescription painkiller abuse
A new review, published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, outlines steps dentists can take to help reduce potential sources for prescription painkiller abuse and to identify substance abusing patients and link them to treatment.

Positive Phase III clinical results announced for Probuphine™, a potential medication for the treatment of opioid addiction
Titan Pharmaceuticals released the highlights of the results of a Phase III clinical trial demonstrating the safety and efficacy of Probuphine™ in reducing opioid abuse. Probuphine is an implantable form of buprenorphine that allows continuous delivery of the medication for six months after a single treatment. The trial was funded in part by an American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grant from NIDA.

Brain pathway could be potential target to reduce power of environment to trigger drug taking
Using a rat model, NIDA researchers have found a brain pathway, beginning in the brain’s memory center and ending in its reward center, which could help explain how environmental cues become strong motivators in drug taking. This pathway could offer new, attractive targets for interventions that aim to reduce the power of these environmental triggers in drug relapse. View the article published in Science Magazine

Heroin vaccine shows promise in animal model
NIDA-funded research, published in Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, have developed a vaccine that blocks heroin-mediated reward and pain relief in rats. The vaccine works by generating antibodies against the drug itself. These antibodies bind heroin while still in the bloodstream, reduce its entry into the brain, thereby blocking its effects on pain and reward. Although more research is needed, this finding offers promise for the development of a heroin vaccine for humans, which would be an important step in the battle against heroin addiction, and associated illnesses such as HIV. View the article ⇒

Activating specific cannabinoid receptors reduces cocaine’s effects in mice
NIDA researchers have found that activating brain CB2 cannabinoid receptors in mice reduced cocaine self administration, as well as cocaine’s ability to increase dopamine and stimulate motor activity. This finding suggests that brain CB2 receptors may play a much more prominent role in a variety of brain functions than previously recognized. Because of their impact on stimulant-related behaviors, CB2 receptors may emerge as an attractive target for the development of medications to treat cocaine addiction. View the article published in Nature Neuroscience

Abuse of methamphetamine or other amphetamine-like drugs linked to increased risk of Parkinson’s disease
An analysis of approximately 15 years of hospital admissions data and death records indicates that people admitted to the hospital with conditions related to the abuse of methamphetamine or other amphetamine-like drugs had an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or parkinsonism compared to control groups. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings and determine what subgroups may be most at risk. View the article published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Research sheds light on effects of mephedrone (“bath salts”)
Mephedrone, an ingredient available online and in drug paraphernalia stores as “bath salts,” is the latest addition to a growing list of synthetic items that young people can obtain to get “high.” Using a rat model, NIDA-funded researchers demonstrated that mephedrone affects the brain in ways similar to MDMA (Ecstasy) and methamphetamine, but with some unique properties. In the study, published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, mephedrone was self-administered by rats and had lasting effects on the function of serotonin neurons, suggesting possible toxic effects on the brain. Due to this drug’s relatively recent emergence, this is one of the first studies on mephedrone.

Please note: If you cannot access a journal article, please check PubMed Central (PMC), the free, digital NIH archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature:

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Other News

2011 Intel Addiction Science Winners Invited to NIDA to Present Findings, Receive Awards
ISEF 2nd Place Winner Photo

Dr. Nora Volkow with 2nd Place Winner Darby Schumacher

Dr. Nora Volkow invited NIDA staff to meet this year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair/Addiction Science Award winners. Due to Hurricane Irene, only the 2nd place winner, Darby Schumacher, was able to attend. The young scientist from Tennessee presented her project to Dr. Volkow and NIDA staff on August 29. She then received a crystal trophy and cash award from Friends of NIDA. A date for the other winners to come to NIDA is being scheduled. View the news release on all of the 2011 award winners and their projects:

NIDA and Italian Government Renew Collaboration on Drug Abuse Research
Italy Agreement Photo

from Left to Right: Dr. Nora Volkow, Carlo Giovanardi, Under-Secretary for the Family, Drugs and Civil Service Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Giovanni Serpelloni, Head of Department of Antidrugs Policies Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

On July 25, NIDA entered into a scientific collaboration with Italy’s Department of Antidrug Policies to strengthen the field of drug abuse research. The signed agreement identifies several research areas of focus for both countries, including early detection, screening, treatment and brief interventions for addiction disorders. NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow participated in the signing, which took place in Rome, Italy. Dr. Antonello Bonci, NIDA’s Scientific Director, Dr. Betty Tai, Director of NIDA’s Center for the Clinical Trials Network, and Senior Advisor to the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, Kevin Sabet, were also in attendance. Representing the Italian government were Senator Carlo Giovanardi, Italian Undersecretary of State for Family, Drugs and Civil Service and Giovanni Serpelloni, head of the Italian Department of Anti-Drug Policies. This agreement follows the Memorandum of Intent, signed in Washington, D.C. a few weeks earlier, by ONDCP Deputy Director David Mineta and Italian Undersecretary Giovanardi, to promote drug policy collaboration and scientific exchanges between the two countries. Both countries have already begun follow up discussions on ways to collaborate with drug abuse research and outreach. See media coverage ⇒

NIDA Participates in International AIDS Conference

IAS 2011 Logo

In support of the 6th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention held July 17-20, 2011 in Rome, Italy, Dr. Nora Volkow and Dr. Jacques Normand contributed entries to the IAS blog, which posted on the days they spoke during the conference. Dr. Normand participated in media training for approximately 40 journalists attending the conference in which he informed reporters about the link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. In addition, Dr. Volkow participated in the official IAS closing press conference. Read more ⇒ | View IAS Conference Blog ⇒

Jag Khalsa Attends Annual Conference on Drug Addiction in Iceland
Dr. Jag Khalsa and President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

Dr. Jag Khalsa and President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

NIDA’s Dr. Jag Khalsa and other NIDA/NIH researchers traveled to Reykjavik, Iceland to attend the June 9-10 Annual Conference on Drug Addiction and participated in a session entitled “Research on Addiction and International Collaborations.” Dr. Khalsa and the researchers discussed issues on drug abuse and co-occurring infections (i.e., HIV, HCV) and the development of international research collaborations between Iceland and the U.S. While there, the President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, invited Dr. Khalsa to attend a special reception at the Iceland “White House.” The U.S. researchers who accompanied Dr. Khalsa were: Dr. Emmalee Bandstra, U. Miami; Dr. Igor Grant, UCSD; Dr. Glenn Treisman, Johns Hopkins; Dr. Shenghan Lai, Johns Hopkins; and Dr. George Woody, U. Penn.

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