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NIDA logo   National Institute on Drug Abuse
Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Programs


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides national leadership for research on drug abuse and addiction. Through its extramural research program and its Intramural Research Program in Baltimore, NIDA supports a comprehensive research portfolio that focuses on the biological, social, behavioral and neuro-scientific bases of drug abuse as well as its causes, prevention, and treatment. NIDA also supports research training, career development, public education and research dissemination efforts. Through grants and contracts to investigators at research institutions around the country and overseas, NIDA supports research and research training on:

  • the neurobiological, behavioral, and social mechanisms underlying drug abuse and addiction;
  • specific biomedical and behavioral effects of drugs of abuse, including nicotine, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine, on the body and brain;
  • effective prevention and treatment approaches, including a broad research program designed to develop new treatment medications and behavioral therapies for drug addiction;
  • the causes and consequences of drug abuse, including impact on society and morbidity and mortality in selected populations, e.g., ethnic minorities, youth, women;
  • the relationship of drug use to problem behaviors and psychosocial outcomes such as mental illness, unemployment, low socioeconomic status, violence;
  • biomedical, behavioral, genetic, and social factors associated with vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction;
  • the relationship of drug abuse to the acquisition, transmission, and clinical course of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases and the development of effective prevention/intervention strategies;
  • the relationship of drug abuse to cultural and ethical issues such as health disparities;
  • the mechanisms of pain and the search for non-addictive analgesics; and
  • tobacco and nicotine addiction.

Important Events in NIDA History

1935 – A research facility is established in Lexington, Ky., as part of a USPHS hospital. It became the Addiction Research Center in 1948.

1972 – Drug Abuse Warning Network and National Household Survey on Drug Abuse were initiated under the Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention.

1974 – NIDA is established as the Federal focal point for research, treatment, prevention and training services, and data collection on the nature and extent of drug abuse.

National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit Survey begins, to identify the location, scope and characteristics of public and private drug prevention and treatment programs.

1975 – The Monitoring the Future Survey, also known as the High School Senior Survey, was initiated to measure prevalence and trends of non-medical drug use and related attitudes of high school seniors and young adults.

NIDA began its "Research Monograph Series," which is one of its primary vehicles for disseminating the newest scientific information in the drug abuse field. Each monograph contains scientific papers that discuss a variety of subjects including drug abuse treatment and prevention research.

1976 – NIDA begins the Community Epidemiology Work Group, made up of state and local representatives meeting semiannually with NIDA staff to assess recent drug abuse trends and to identify populations at risk.

1979 – The clinical research program moves from Lexington, Ky., to the campus of the Francis Scott Key Medical Center (later Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center) in Baltimore, MD. The basic science program follows in 1985.

NIDA sponsors the Treatment Outcome Prospective Study (TOPS), which continued through 1987 to evaluate the overall effectiveness of treatment and to identify certain factors as important determinants of drug abuse treatment success, such as length of time in treatment.

1985 – NIDA publishes the first issue of its bimonthly newsletter, NIDA Notes.

1986 – The dual epidemics of drug abuse and HIV/AIDS are recognized by Congress and the administration in a quadrupling of NIDA funding for research on both major diseases.

1987 – NIDA initiates the National AIDS Demonstration Research projects to study and change the high-risk behaviors of injection drug users not enrolled in drug treatment and their sex partners.

1990 – NIDA established the Medications Development Program, focusing on developing new medications for treating addiction.

1991 – The Monitoring the Future Survey is expanded to include 8th and 10th graders.

NIDA begins data collection for the Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study (the successor to TOPS) to assess the effectiveness of treatment in reducing drug abuse and to identify predictors of drug abuse treatment success.

NIDA holds its first research technology transfer conference in Washington, D.C.: "National Conference on Drug Abuse Research and Practice: An Alliance for the 21st Century."

1992 – NIDA joins the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1993 – The institute obtained FDA approval for LAAM, the first medication approved in a decade for the treatment of opioid addiction.

1995 – NIDA researchers cloned the dopamine transporter, cocaine's primary site of action in the brain.

The institute held the first "National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research" in Arlington, VA.

1996 – NIDA dedicated the Regional Brain Imaging Center located at the institute's intramural research center in Baltimore.

1997 – NIDA released Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-based Guide, which described the most successful concepts for treating people with drug abuse and addiction problems.

The institute sponsored "Heroin Use and Addiction: A National Conference on Prevention, Treatment and Research," in Washington, D.C.

1998 – NIDA establishes a new Center for AIDS and Other Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse, to coordinate a comprehensive, multidisciplinary research program aimed at improving the knowledge base on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS and other short and long-term health consequences associated with drug abuse and addiction.

1999 – In collaborations with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations, NIDA creates the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers for studying tobacco use and new ways to combat it and its consequences.

NIDA launches its National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network, to rapidly and efficiently test the effectiveness of behavioral and pharmacological treatments in real life settings.

NIDA releases "Principles of Treatment, A Research-Based Guide" developed for use in local communities, that describes the most successful concepts for treating people with drug abuse and addiction problems.

2000 – NIDA distributes its "Clinical Toolbox," a collection of the latest comprehensive science-based publications on drug addiction and its treatment.

NIDA Legislative Chronology

1966 – P.L. 89-793, the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act, provided for increased Federal efforts in the rehabilitation and treatment of narcotic addicts (limited to opiate abusers).

1970 – P.L. 91-513, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, replaced the PHS Act's definition of "narcotic addict" with a definition of "drug dependent person" to authorize treatment for both narcotic addicts and other persons with drug abuse problems.

1972 – P.L. 92-255, the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act, created a Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP) in the Executive Office of the President, and authorized the establishment of NIDA within the Department to become operational in 1974. In cooperation with other Federal agencies, especially NIMH's Division of Narcotic Addiction and Drug Abuse (DNADA), SAODAP established a national network of multi-modality drug abuse treatment programs.

1974 – P.L. 93-282, The Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act Amendment created ADAMHA which was charged with supervising and coordinating the functions of NIMH, NIDA, and NIAAA.

Programs and responsibilities of DNADA and SAODAP were moved to NIDA.

1979 – P.L. 96-181, the Drug Abuse Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Treatment Act, mandated that at least 7 percent in FY 1980 and 10 percent in FY 1981 of NIDA's Community Programs budget be spent on prevention.

1981 – P.L. 97-35, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act repealed NIDA's formula grants and Community Programs project grants and contracts authorities, and established the ADMS Block Grant program giving more control of treatment and prevention services to the states.

1986 – P.L. 99-570, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, increased the Block Grant and created a substance abuse treatment enhancement; and provided increased funds for all NIDA research, particularly AIDS research. Executive Order 12564 mandated a drug-free federal workplace program. NIDA became the lead agency, creating its Office of Workplace Initiatives.

1987 – P.L. 100-71, Supplemental Appropriations Act of 1987, required DHHS (NIDA) to publish guidelines in the Federal Register for Federal drug testing.

1988 – P.L. 100-690, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, established the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in the Executive Office of the President; and authorized funds for Federal, state and local law enforcement, school-based drug prevention efforts and drug abuse treatment with special emphasis on injection drug abusers at high risk for AIDS.

1989 and 1990 – P.L. 101-166 and P.L. 101-517, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Act for FY 1990 and 1991, contained identical prohibitions precluding the use of funds provided under these enactments to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles.

1992 – P.L. 102-321, the ADAMHA Reorganization Act, transferred NIDA to NIH; earmarked 15 percent of the Institute's research appropriation for health services research; established a Medication Development Program within NIDA; provided authority to designate Drug Abuse Research Centers for interdisciplinary research on drug abuse and related biomedical, behavioral, and social issues; and created an Office on AIDS at NIDA. P.L. 102-394, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 1993 Appropriations Act, provided that up to $2 million of NIDA research funds be available to carry out section 706 of P.L. 102-321, which required the DHHS Secretary, acting through NIDA, to request an NAS study of U.S. programs that provide both sterile hypodermic needles and bleach.

1993 – P.L. 103-112, the Labor/HHS and Education FY 1994 Appropriations Act, prohibited the use of funds under the Act for (1) any further implementation of section 706 of P.L. 102-321 (see above); and (2) any program for distributing sterile needles.

1994 and 1996 – P.L. 103-333, the Departments of Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Act for FY 1995; P.L. 104-134, the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act for FY 1996; and P.L. 104-208, the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 1997 – each prohibited use of any funds provided in the enactments to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles.

1997 – P.L. 105-78, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriation Act FY 1998, continued prior restrictions on needle-exchange programs through 3/31/98, permitting funding thereafter of those programs meeting certain statutory requirements including criteria of the DHHS Secretary.

1998 – P.L. 105-277, the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act-1999, restored the general prohibition on funds for needle exchange programs; statutorily reestablished ONDCP in the Executive Office of the President with significantly expanded authority over drug control agencies; and required ONDCP to conduct a four-year (FYs 1999-2002) national anti-drug media campaign aimed at youth.

1999 – P.L. 106-113, the Consolidated Appropriations Act-200, continued the ban on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs; prohibited use of appropriated fund for promotion of legalization of any Schedule I controlled substance; and postponed termination NIDA's triennial report until 5/15/2000.

2000 – P.L. 106-554, the Consolidated Appropriations Act-2001, authorized the Director of NIH to negotiate a long-term lease for research facilities at Baltimore's Bayview Campus, and continued prior prohibitions on funding of sterile needle/syringe exchange programs and of promotion of legalization of Schedule I controlled substances. P.L. 106-310, the Children's Health Act of 200, repealed the narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 [P.L. 89-793] waives the requirements of the Narcotic Addict Treatment Act to permit qualified physicians to engage in office-based treatment of opiate dependence; and increased penalties for manufacture of methamphetamine and Ecstasy.

Biographical Sketch of NIDA Director, Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D.

Dr. Leshner was appointed Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in February 1994. Prior to coming to NIDA, Dr. Leshner had been the Deputy Director and Acting Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He went to NIMH from the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he held a variety of senior positions, focusing on basic research in the biological, behavioral and social sciences, and on science education.

Dr. Leshner went to NSF after 10 years at Bucknell University, where he was Professor of Psychology. While on the faculty at Bucknell, he also held long-term appointments at the Postgraduate Medical School in Budapest, Hungary, at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center, and as a Fulbright Scholar at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Dr. Leshner's research has focused on the biological bases of behavior. He is the author of a major textbook on the relationship between hormones and behavior, and numerous book chapters and papers in professional journals. He also has published extensively in the areas of science and technology policy and education, in addition to his writings on drug abuse and addiction.

Dr. Leshner received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physiological psychology from Rutgers University. He has been elected a fellow of many professional societies, and has received numerous awards from both professional and lay groups for his national leadership in science, mental illness and mental health, and substance abuse and addiction. In 1996, President Clinton conferred the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award on Dr. Leshner, the highest award in Federal service. In the fall of 1998, Dr. Leshner was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

NIDA Directors

In Office From
Robert L. DuPont September 1973 July 1978
William Pollin 1979 1985
Charles R. Schuster 1986 1992
Richard A. Millstein (Acting) January 1992 1994
Alan I. Leshner 1994 November 2001
Glen R. Hanson (Acting) December 2001 April 2003
Nora D. Volkow April 2003  

Research Programs

Division of Epidemiology and Services Prevention Research

The Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research (DESPR); 1) plans, stimulates, develops and supports a broad extramural research program to study: a) prevention of drug use and addiction and services research including the prevention of medical/social/psychological sequelae of drug use; b) innovative sampling, data collection and analytic methodologies designed to support epidemiologic and prevention and early intervention and services research; c) the nature, patterns and consequences of drug use among general, special, community-based, and subpopulations; d) behavioral and social science research in the context of communities and defined populations, including the consequences of drug use such as delinquency and violence; e) services research on the impact of the organization, financing and management of treatment programs and services systems on quality, cost, access, and outcomes of care; and f) economic modeling and configuration of the treatment system; and DESPR also 2) supports research training programs to ensure the quality and quantity of investigators in the areas of drug use/addiction prevention, epidemiology, and services research.

Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research

The Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Research (DNBR); 1) plans, develops, and administers an extramural program of biomedical, behavioral, and neuroscience research which seeks new knowledge concerning the mechanisms and sites of action underlying drug abuse; 2) supports studies to develop new methodologies for testing the abuse potential of new compounds; 3) supports studies designed to determine the short-and long-term neurological, biological, and behavioral effects of drug of abuse and those compounds which may be related to drugs of abuse; 4) supports research training to increase the skills, quantity, quality and utilization of research investigators in the biomedical and behavioral disciplines in the drug of abuse field; 5) supports studies designed to describe and understand drug abusing behavior and to ascertain the effects of drugs and environment on behaviors; 6) supports research into the synthesis of new compounds, new methods of development, and drug metabolism; and 7) manages the distribution of controlled substances, research drugs, and chemicals.

Division of Treatment Research and Development

The Division of Treatment Research and Development (DTRD) plans and directs studies necessary to identify, evaluate, develop and obtain FDA marketing approval for new medications for the treatment of drug dependence and addiction and other brain and behavioral disorders. DTRD develops and administers a national program of: a) basic and clinical pharmaceutical research to develop innovative pharmacological treatment approaches, b) behavioral therapies research, and c) research on the etiology and clinical neurobiology of drug abuse. DTRD supports research training in the fundamental sciences, clinical, and behavioral science disciplines. DTRD also collaborates with: a) the pharmaceutical and chemical industry in the United States and other Nations; and b) the Federal medications development programs and works closely with FDA in assuring that research designed to show the clinical efficacy of new compounds is evaluated and approved in the most expeditious manner possible.

Office of Extramural Affairs

NIDA's Office of Extramural Affairs 1) provides advice and guidance to the Director regarding the Institute's peer and objective review process; 2) provides scientific analyses of the Institute's extramural research program, assessing the breadth and scope of the Institute's research activities; 3) administers the peer and objective review of all extramural grant applications; 4) administers the concept and peer review of all contract proposals; 5) administers the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse second level review of extramural support mechanisms and advises on overall NIDA program and policy manners; 6) coordinates and assures the development of program policies and rules relating the Institute's extramural activities, including Institute responsibility for inquiries and investigations into misconduct in science; 7) coordinates Institute activities under the Privacy Act, including supervision of issuance of Confidentiality Certificates; and 8) administers the Institute's committee management function under the National Advisory Council Act.

Office of Planning and Resources Management

The Office of Planning and Resources Management 1) provides all administrative and management support services to the Institute in such areas as: financial planning, analysis, and management; administrative services; personnel management; information resources management; grants and contract management; administrative management policies, procedures, and guidelines; 2) develops and monitors the implementation of program policies and plans; and evaluates progress in meeting established Institute objectives; 3) develops data requirements pertinent to short- and long-range program planning and develops the Institute's program evaluation policy; 4) administers the Institute's program evaluation system for all Institute employees; and 5) maintains responsibility for all management and administrative policy studies, reports, analyses, and program objectives.

Office of Science Policy and Communications

The Office of Science Policy and Communications 1) provides leadership and direction in planning, coordinating, analyzing, and evaluating the Institute's scientific research and research training programs; 2) represents the Institute's research and research training programs to other government agencies, the Congress, scientific and professional organizations, and the public; 3) evaluates, analyzes, and develops policy options in regard to the Institute's scientific research and research training activities; 4) prepares briefing materials and testimony for congressional hearings and serves as liaison with the Congress, the White House, and other significant Federal and governmental agencies; 5) prepares reports, develops responses, and provides information on legislative efforts, responds to congressional inquiries and analyzes legislative proposals for the Director; 6) advises the Director on national drug abuse policy issues; 7) conducts relevant public affairs, research media, and other communications organizations' collaborates with a variety of public and private entities to enhance knowledge and awareness of NIDA's program and findings; 8) provides liaison with scientific and professional groups and private organizations; and 9) plans, coordinates, analyzes, and evaluates the Institute's international program.

Center on AIDS and Other Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse (Office on AIDS)

The Center on AIDS and Other Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse (Office on AIDS) 1) coordinates and provides leadership to Institute research activities with respect to HIV/AIDS, and other medical/psychiatric and developmental consequences of drug use, including such areas as prevention of HIV transmission, HIV treatment, and/or treatment and prevention of other medical/psychiatric conditions associated with drug use and 2) plans, develops and supports a broad extramural program of research and research training on the medical/psychiatric and developmental consequences of drug use, including new intervention strategies and the interactions between drugs of abuse, the immune system, human development, AIDS natural history, and other medical/psychiatric conditions, and supports community based research approaches for reducing the high-risk behaviors of drug abusers for developing AIDS and other infectious diseases, including needle exchange and outreach programs.

Intramural Research Program

NIDA's Intramural Research Program (IRP) is located in Baltimore, MD. Originally known as the Addiction Research Center, IRP conducts multidisciplinary research on basic biological and behavioral mechanisms that underlie drug abuse and addiction, including its causes and adverse consequences. Research is also supported on treatments for drug addiction and HIV transmission by those who inject drugs. Studies range from molecular to laboratory research with animals to clinical studies with human volunteers. The program employs the latest technology – including positron emission tomography - to study the action of drugs in the human brain and transgenic species to better understand the role of genes in drug abuse. The intramural program also serves as a national and international training center for young investigators in the drug abuse field.

NIDA Appropriations – Grants and Direct Operations

Fiscal year
Total grants
Direct operations1
(Amounts in thousands of dollars)

1 Direct operations include R&D contracts, intramural research, and research management and support and represent actual obligations for each fiscal year.

This page was last reviewed on June 9, 2003 .

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