Correspondence | Published:

NIDA's commitment to tackling drug abuse

Nature volume 430, page 965 (26 August 2004) | Download Citation



Your News Feature “A hard habit to break” (Nature 430, 394–395; 2004) reports on the commitment of Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), to pursue science despite pressures to follow politically motivated agendas.

However, the article less fully describes the mission, goals or scientific achievements of NIDA over the past 30 years. NIDA's previous director, Alan Leshner, should be credited for conveying a clear science-based message that drug addiction is a brain disease, deserving the same research and medical-insurance support as other diseases targeted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Contrary to the assertion that NIDA shuns research into ‘harm reduction’ strategies, NIDA studies have examined the impacts of needle-exchange programmes and the effectiveness of office-based methadone maintenance — with documented success. NIDA has also funded extensive research on methadone to understand exactly what features of methadone maintenance make it an effective treatment for opiate addiction.

NIDA has supported basic and applied clinical research on the molecular, neurobiological and behavioural basis of drug abuse and addiction. It has also supported neurochemical, pharmacological and behavioural research for development of long-term treatments for each of the specific addictions. NIDA has funded research on the treatment, epidemiology and prevention of drug abuse, in accord with its NIH research mandate.

Like other NIH institutes, NIDA does not set policy. Rather, it supports the best science, providing information, which, if appropriately used, can inform the development of enlightened policies. NIDA supports research that documents the most effective approaches for treatment of a disease. Unlike the diseases and diverse disorders that are the domain of other NIH institutes, drug abuse and drug addiction have only recently been accepted as diseases of the brain with molecular genetic, environmental and drug-induced bases. As such, these diseases, like all others, require appropriate intervention and chronic treatment for some, and prevention for others.

Mary Jeanne Kreek  The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, New York 10021, USA

Other signatories to this letter:

Reese Jones University of California, San Francisco, USA

Herbert D. Kleber Columbia University, USA

Thomas Kosten Yale University, USA

Charles O'Brien University of Pennsylvania, USA

About this article

Publication history





    By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

    Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing