Institutes and Research Divisions
National Institute on Drug Abuse


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 at the Division of Intramural Research in Baltimore, NIDA supports studies on the biological, social, behavioral and neuroscientific bases of drug abuse as well as its causes, prevention, and treatment. In addition, NIDA supports research training, career development, public education and research dissemination in these areas. Through grants and contracts to investigators at research institutions around the country and overseas, NIDA supports research and training on:

NIDA’s intramural research program is located in Baltimore, Md. Originally known as the Addiction Research Center, it conducts multidisciplinary research on basic biological and behavioral mechanisms that underly drug abuse and dependence, including its causes and adverse consequences. Research is also supported on treatments for drug dependence and HIV transmission by injecting drug users. 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 genes in drug abuse. The intramural program also serves as a national and international training center for young investigators in the drug abuse field.


Important Events in NIDA History

1935--Federal research facility established for narcotic research at the USPHS Hospital in Lexington, Ky., later to become NIDA's Addiction Research Center.

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 was established as part of ADAMHA, as the lead Federal agency for conducting basic, clinical, and epidemiological research to improve the understanding, treatment, and prevention of drug abuse and addiction and the health consequences of these behaviors. NIDA was mandated to carry on the work of the Drug Abuse Warning Network, and National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. The Addiction Research Center in Lexington, Ky., became NIDA's intramural research program.

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 nonmedical drug use and related attitudes of high school seniors and young adults.

NIDA began its “Research Monograph Series,” which is its primary vehicle 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 Epidem-iology 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.

1984-- NIDA funds an evaluation of the Midwestern Prevention Project, a comprehensive program involving schools, parents, media, community, and policy makers in drug prevention and education.

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

1986-- NIDA’s Drug Abuse Information and Treatment Referral Hotline is initiated, 1-800-662-HELP.

NIDA becomes the lead agency to carry out the Drug Free Federal Workplace Program, as mandated by presidential order.

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 Division, focusing on developing new medications for enhancing options and effectiveness of drug abuse treatment.

1991-- The Monitoring the Future Survey, also called the High School Senior 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 is transferred to NIH from ADAMHA, which is reorganized.

1993-- NIDA holds its second research technology transfer conference in Washington, D.C. second national conference on Drug Abuse Research and Practice: An Alliance for the 21st Century.

The institute obtained FDA approval for LAAM, the first medication approved in a decade for the treatment of opioid addiction.1995--

NIDA designated the development of a cocaine treatment medication as one of its top priorities.

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

1995-- NIDA designated the development of a cocaine treatment medication as one of its top priorities.

The institute held the first “National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research” in Arlington, Va.


NIDA Legislative Chronology

1966-- P.L. 89-793, the Narcotic Rehabilitation Act, provide for increased Federal effors 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 (SOADAP) and authorized a separate organizational entity--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, SAODAP established a national network of multi-modality drug abuse treatment programs.

1974-- P.L. 93-282, created ADAMHA which was charged with supervising 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 1881 of NIDA’s Community Programs budget be spent on prevention.

1982-- P.L. 97-35, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, combined NIDA’s community programs project grants and contracts and formula grants within an ADM block grant giving more control of treatment and prevention services to the states.

1986-- P.L. 100-690, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, increased the block grant, created a substance abuse treatment enhancement to the block grant, and provided increased funds for AIDS research.

Executive Order 12564 called for the implementation of a drug-free workplace. As a result of this action, NIDA created the 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) authorized funds for Federal, state and local law enforcement school-based drug prevention efforts and drug abuse treatment with special emphasis on injecting drug abusers at high risk for AIDS.

1988 and 1990-- P.L. 101-166 and P.L. 101-517, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Eduation 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, earmarks 15 percent of the institute's research appropriation for health services research, establishes a Medication Development Program within NIDA, provides authority to designate Drug Abuse Research Centers for the purpose of interdisciplinary research relating to drug abuse and other biomedical, behavioral, and social issues related to drug abuse, and creates an Office on AIDS at NIDA

P.L. 102-394, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 1993 Appropriations Act, provided that $2 million to carry out section 706 of P.L. 102-321, which required the DHHS Secretary, acting through the director, NIDA, to request that the NAS study U.S. programs that provide both sterile hypodermic needles and bleach. The act also prohibited the use of appropriated funds for any sterile needle distribution program.

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, which required the NAS to study U.S. programs that provide both sterile hypodermic needles and bleach, and 2) any program for distributing sterile needles.

P.L. 103-43, the NIH Revitilization Act of 1993, required NIDA to conduct a study on the relationship between the consumption of legal and illegal drugs.

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


Director's of NIDA

NameDate of Birth Dates of Office
Robert L. DuPont......................... September 1973July 1978
William Pollin.........................19791985
Charles R. Schuster.........................19861992
Richard A. Millstein (Actg).........................January 19921994
Alan I. Leshner......................... 1994.........................


Biographical Sketch of NIDA Director

Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D.

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.

From 1988 to 1994, he was deputy director of NIMH. He also served as acting director of the institute from 1990 to 1992.

Dr. Leshner spent 10 years at Bucknell University where he was professor of psychology. While on the Bucknell faculty, he also held long-term visiting appointments at the Postgraduate Medical School in Budapest, Hungary, at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center of the University of Wisconsin, and as a Fulbright scholar at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. From Bucknell, he went to the NSF, where he held a variety of positions. Most recently, he was director of the office of science and technology centers development, responsible for a foundation-wide program to develop and support major research centers around the country across all fields of science and technology. Before assuming that position in 1987, he had been deputy to the NSF assistant director for biological, behavioral and social sciences since 1985.

Dr. Leshner served in numerous other positions since joining the NSF staff in 1979, including overseeing the National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, one of the two national commissions of the early 1980’s that brought renewed attention to the Nation's severe problems in elementary and secondary education.

His research has focused on the biological bases of behavior. His laboratory’s work emphasized the role of peptide and hormone effects on appetitive behavior, motivation, learning and memory, and such social behaviors as aggression and submission.

Dr. Leshner is the author of An Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology, a major text on the relationship between hormones and behavior. He has written numerous book chapters and papers in professional journals and has published extensively in the areas of science and technology policy and education.

He has been elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, and the New York Academy of Sciences. He has received awards for his national leadership from such diverse groups as the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the National Mental Health Association, and the National Prevention Coalition.


NIDA Programs

Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research

The Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research conducts research on the epidemiology, etiology, natural history, and consequences of drug abuse and strategies to prevent drug abuse among general, special and underserved populations. Major research efforts focus on identifying risk and protective factors for drug abuse, identifying populations at high-risk for drug abuse, and exploring the natural history of drug abuse and related comorbid conditions. The information obtained from these studies guides NIDA in determining its research priorities.

The division’s programs address questions about what kinds of drugs are being abused, to what extent and by whom. Activities range from support for surveys designed to monitor drug use trends among high school students, to developing networks of community researchers for the purpose of identifying new trends in patterns of drug use in the U.S., to conducting in-depth analyses of data which increase knowledge about the nature and extent of drug abuse, and to performing methodologic research to improve the measurement of drug abuse patterns.

The extramural community research program supports studies on the epidemiology and prevention of drug use and abuse-related consequences including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and violence; the antecedents, determinants, correlates, and consequences of drug use and abuse and these conditions; the efficacy, effectiveness, and efficiency of community-based interventions in reducing these drug-abuse-related conditions; and innovative methodologies to improve community-based epidemiologic and prevention efficacy research.

The extramural epidemiologic research program funds research on the origins and patterns of drug use/abuse and the disease of addiction, including surveys among general and special populations; the identification and study of resiliency and risk factors for drug use and abuse; etiologic studies on drug use/abuse and the human developmental process; improved methodological studies and innovative statistical research designs; and international epidemiologic studies that focus on drug use, etiologic factors, and related concerns around the world.

The extramural prevention research program supports studies to develop and test strategies to prevent drug use, to prevent escalation from initial drug use to dependence among high risk individuals and groups, and to determine the efficacy of population-based, comprehensive multiple component interventions.

The division works with state, Federal, and international agencies and private organizations to encourage the sharing of drug abuse information and prevention models.

Division of Basic Research

Elucidating the basic behavioral and biomedical mechanisms underlying drug abuse, its causes, and its hazards is the goal of the Division of Basic Research. Research supported by the division helps form the foundation needed to make advances in the treatment and prevention of drug abuse. The division conducts research focusing on the behavioral processes underlying the use of abused substances, which includes studies of drugs’ effects on human and animal behavior, as well as studies of social and other factors in drug abuse and addiction. NIDA-funded scientists also seek to understand how abused drugs influence performance, perception and cognitive functions such as learning and memory.

Because drugs affect the brain and its control over mood and behavior, a significant part of the division’s research is connected to the broad field of neuroscience. With a clearer understanding of the brain's functions (e.g., the neurobiology of drug reinforcement), and how they are affected by illicit drugs, researchers hope to improve treatment for drug addiction and to prevent drug dependence. The division also supports studies on the motivational processes underlying drug use and relapse to drug use such as craving.

The division monitors a broad spectrum of neurobiological and other biomedical research including studies that seek to determine: the specific mechanisms mediating drugs’ effects on the heart and other organs; the mechanisms of drug tolerance and dependence; the basic chemistry of drugs and their analogs; and the processes through which the body absorbs, metabolizes and excretes drugs. In addition, investigators funded by the division explore the effects of drugs on pregnancy and offspring and short- and long-term consequences of multiple drug use. The division also supports studies to determine the neurochemical and behavioral effects of newly developed drugs, with a special emphasis on finding nonaddicting analgesics. Other research develops methodologies for testing new compounds to determine their potential for abuse.

Division of Clinical and Services Research

The Division of Clinical and Services Research supports a program aimed to enhance the understanding of the pathophysiology of drug abuse/addictive disorders, their complications including AIDS, and their treatment, at the clinical level. The work of the division encompasses physiological/neurobiological, behavioral, medical, developmental, and services-delivery approaches. In each area the emphasis is on elucidation of mechanisms underlying the drug abuse/addictive disorders and their complications, the development, improvement and evaluation of treatments, and access to quality and cost-effectiveness of care.

The Clinical Medicine Branch stimulates, plans and develops a national research program focusing upon the clinical, health, and developmental consequences of drug abuse/addictive disorders. The program encompasses studies of natural history of infectious (particularly HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis) and noninfectious complications of drug abuse/addictive disorders, effects of addiction on human development, efficacy of clinical interventions for complications of drug abuse/addiction, and patho-physiology/pathogenesis of diseases associated with drug abuse disorders.

The Etiology and Clinical Neurobiology Branch conducts a national research program focusing on the clinical neurobiology of drug abuse/addictive disorders. This program targets questions of how these disorders affect the structure, function, development and maturation of the human central nervous system, as well as how the structure and physiology of the human CNS and genetic factors affect susceptibility, development, and course of drug abuse/addictive disorders.

In addition, the branch supports studies of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying both pharmacological and nonpharma-cological treatments of drug abuse/addictive disorders. Investigations of neurobiological aspects of HIV infection/AIDS in patients with substance abuse/addictive disorders are also supported. Approaches include functional and structural brain imaging, as well as other state-of-the-art techniques.

The Services Research Branch conducts a national program addressing issues of financing and cost, organization, management and effectiveness of health services delivered to patients with drug abuse disorders, as well as health services delivered to such patients in relation to HIV/AIDS. Investigations are carried out at the patient, program, and system levels.


NIDA Appropriations -- Grants and Direct Operations
[Amounts in thousands of dollars]


Total Grants
Direct Operations
197632,516 32,19164,707
1982 35,88821,44157,329


Medications Development Division

Finding new and better pharmacotherapies to treat drug addiction is the mission of the Medications Development Division. Its founding in 1990 strengthened NIDA’s commitment to improving drug abuse treatment and preventing the spread of AIDS.

The division funds researchers at every step of the complex medication development process. By expanding NIDA’s in-house pharmacological research capabilities, forging drug development agreements with pharmaceutical firms, and establishing a nationwide network of clinical research sites where medications can be tested, the division aggressively pursues ways to enhance and quicken the medication development process.

The division continually searches for compounds that may be effective against drug use. Where appropriate, the division emphasizes the translation of basic research findings regarding medications to clinical concept testing and development.

Division of Intramural Research

NIDA’s Division of Intramural Research, with a staff of more than 180, including 60 doctorate-level scientists, is one of the largest research facilities in the U.S. devoted to studying drug abuse and addiction.

Located in Baltimore, Md., the DIR provides an environment where NIDA scientists can collaborate within one facility on a variety of research projects crucial to understanding drug addiction.

Research conducted by intramural NIDA scientists in the DIR complements the many studies supported by NIDA awarded grants and contracts across the country and abroad. Areas under investigation include the causes, treatment, and prevention of drug abuse and addiction; the biochemical and behavioral mechanisms underlying the addictive process; the addictive potential of new drugs; and bases for selective individual vulnerabilities to abused drugs.

Work ranges from basic molecular studies through laboratory work with animals to clinical studies with human volunteers. The center uses the latest research technologies, such as positron emission tomography, to study the action of drugs in the living human brain and transgenic techniques, in which genetically altered mice are created to examine the role genes play in vulnerability to drug abuse.

DIR researchers have played central roles in defining molecular sites for cocaine and opiate action and have used their insights to add to new therapeutic studies.

In addition to its research role, the DIR also serves as a training ground for researchers from across the world to receive training in its laboratories. Approximately 25 percent of all DIR personnel are trainees.

Special Programs

NIDA Training Programs. To ensure an adequate supply of professionals in the drug abuse field, NIDA’s research training includes individual fellowships and institutional training programs. NIDA’s training program emphasizes basic biomedical, clinical, behavioral, neuroscience, and epidemiological research in drug abuse.

In addition, NIDA supports a Science Education Program in recognition of the need to improve science education and literacy in the U.S. The purpose of the program is to provide educators with tools that can be used to effectively interest students in science.

AIDS Program. Because transmission of HIV is linked directly and indirectly to drug abuse, NIDA's new Office on AIDS collects valuable information on ways of limiting behaviors associated with drug use that are likely to spread the disease. By devising strategies that drug abuse treatment and prevention practitioners can use to combat AIDS, NIDA is helping reduce the transmission of HIV among drug abusers, their sexual partners, and their children.

NIDA's AIDS program also focuses on sharing its research findings with researchers, at-risk groups, prevention and treatment practitioners, and the general public. As part of this effort, the institute provides technical assistance to help communities form coalitions to increase awareness at the grassroots level of the association between AIDS and drug abuse. In addition, NIDA has developed several comprehensive, national public education campaigns to deliver mass media messages about the prevention of drug abuse and AIDS.

Research Program on Women and Gender Differences. Prior to 1995, NIDA's program on women's health focused on pregnant and parenting women and the effects of drug use and abuse on the offspring. The program was broadened in 1995 to include research on drug use, abuse, and addiction in women, regardless of age and reproductive status, as well as research on gender differences. Leadership for the program is provided by the women's health coordinator and the advisory women and gender research group representing each of NIDA's program branches.

At NIDA the study of women and gender differences is integrated throughout all program divisions and consists of four areas: etiology; consequences and impact; prevention; and treatment and services. Etiology research consists of preclinical, clinical, and epidemiological field studies aimed at investigating gender differences in the nature and extent of drug-using behaviors; in the pathways and determinants of initiation, progression and maintenance of drug use; and in the basic behavioral and neurochemical mechanisms underlying drug dependence and vulnerability.

The institute supports human and animal basic research as well as field studies directed at identifying sex and gender differences in the consequences and impact of drug use, abuse, and addiction. Studies examine gender differences in the reinforcing and stimulus properties of abused drugs; the role of the menstrual cycle and sex hormones in modulating drug use and effects; and gender specific biological, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral mechanisms.

A large HIV/AIDS initiative targets pregnant and nonpregnant women and adolescent females; addresses drug use factors that may influence the course of the disease, including modulation of infectivity; and the pathogenesis of progression to AIDS. Also studied are interventions to reduce HIV risk factors in drug users; issue related to access, utilization, and adherence to HIV-related medical regimens; and effectiveness of HIV treatment in drug users.

Among NIDA's research objectives is the development of gender-sensitive prevention strategies that address issues specific to females of all ages, including the identification of risk and protective factors associated with gender value systems and life experiences, and ethnicity and culture. Additionally, the institute supports a comprehensive drug abuse treatment program that includes pharmacological, psychotherapeutic, behavioral, and psychosocial modalities. Studies examine development and effectiveness of drug abuse treatment models that are unique to women, including treatments that encompass coexisting psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders).

Research Dissemination. As part of its overall mission to promote the use of research in reducing the problems of drug abuse in the U.S., NIDA carries out multifaceted activities to disseminate research results to researchers, prevention and treatment practitioners, other health care providers, policymakers, and the general public. NIDA’s public information branch coordinates these activities, which disseminate the most up-to-date findings by NIDA-supported researchers and other leading investigators in the drug abuse field through print and audiovisual materials to diverse audiences.

Special Populations. Epidemiologic data show that drug abuse and HIV/AIDS have disproportionately severe consequences for minority populations. Minority group persons who abuse drugs are more likely to die and suffer from severe drug-related illnesses and are less likely to receive appropriate prevention and treatment services. More research is needed in order to develop a rigorous scientific knowledge base on minority populations and drug abuse that can support the formation of policy, prevention/intervention efforts, and a full range of treatment approaches (e.g., pharma-cologic, clinical, behavioral) that are responsive and appropriate to each popula-tion's needs.

The Special Populations Office supports activities to encourage research on minority health issues related to drug abuse and is administratively responsible for some of the research training programs pertaining to minority and other populations. It also assesses and makes recommendations regarding research needs and strategies and monitors progress towards the achievement of these goals.