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National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Mission | Important Events | Legislative Chronology | Director | Divisions and Offices | Photo Gallery

Mission

The mission of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is to provide leadership in the national effort to reduce alcohol-related problems by:

  • Conducting and supporting research in a wide range of scientific areas including genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, health risks and benefits of alcohol consumption, prevention, and treatment;
  • Coordinating and collaborating with other research institutes and Federal Programs on alcohol-related issues;
  • Collaborating with international, national, state, and local institutions, organizations, agencies, and programs engaged in alcohol-related work; and
  • Translating and disseminating research findings to health care providers, researchers, policymakers, and the public.

The Institute's efforts to fulfill its mission are guided by the NIAAA vision to support and promote, through research and education, the best science on alcohol and health for the benefit of all by:

  • Increasing the understanding of normal and abnormal biological functions and behavior relating to alcohol use;
  • Improving the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of alcohol use disorders; and
  • Enhancing quality health care.

Research opportunities to increase our understanding of why, how, and when people drink, and why and how some people develop alcohol use disorders, are set forth in the NIAAA Strategic Plan for Research, available on the NIAAA Web site at http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/about-niaaa/our-work/strategic-plan.

Important Events in NIAAA History

1970—The Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act was passed, establishing NIAAA as part of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Senator Harold E. Hughes of Iowa played a pivotal role in sponsoring the legislation, which recognized alcohol abuse and alcoholism as major public health problems.

1971—The First Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health was issued in December, part of a series of triennial reports established to chart the progress made by alcohol research toward understanding, preventing, and treating alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

1974—NIAAA became an independent institute within the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA), which also housed NIMH and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

1977—NIAAA organized the first national research workshop on fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which reviewed the state of the research on FAS.

1980—NIAAA science and staff were instrumental to the development of the Report to the President and the Congress on Health Hazards Associated with Alcohol and Methods to Inform the General Public of these Hazards; this report influenced the following year’s publication of the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Alcohol and Pregnancy of 1981 (updated in 2005 External Web Site Policy ).

1989—NIAAA launched the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism with the goal of identifying the specific genes underlying vulnerability to alcoholism as well as collecting clinical, neuropsychological, electrophysiological, and biochemical data, and establishing a repository of immortalized cell lines.

1991—NIAAA began the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey, designed to study drinking practices, behaviors, and related problems in the general public.

1995—NIAAA celebrated its 25th anniversary.

1996—NIAAA established the Mark Keller Honorary Lecture Series. The series pays tribute to Mark Keller, a pioneer in the field of alcohol research, and features a lecture each year by an outstanding alcohol researcher who has made significant and long-term contributions to our understanding of alcohol's effects on the body and mind. View image.

1999—NIAAA organized the first National Alcohol Screening Day, created to provide public education, screening, and referral for treatment when indicated. The program was held at 1,717 sites across the United States, including 499 college sites.

NIAAA co-sponsored the launch of The Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free External Web Site Policy , a unique coalition of State Governors' spouses, Federal agencies, and public and private organizations that targets prevention of drinking in young people ages 9- to 15-years old.

2001—NIAAA launched the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, a representative sample of the U.S. population with data on alcohol and drug use; alcohol and drug abuse and dependence; and associated psychiatric and other co-occurring disorders.

2002—NIAAA published A Call to Action: Changing the Culture of Drinking at U.S. Colleges, which was developed by the Task Force of the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as a comprehensive review of research on college drinking and the effectiveness of prevention programs.

2004—NIAAA established the Underage Drinking Research Initiative by convening, a steering committee of experts in adolescent development, child health, brain imaging, genetics, neuroscience, prevention research, and other research fields, with the goal of working towards a more complete and integrated scientific understanding of the environmental, biobehavioral, and genetic factors that promote initiation, maintenance, and acceleration of alcohol use among youth, framed within the context of human development.

2004—FDA approved acamprosate, a drug that eases negative effects related to alcohol withdrawal. In 1994, the FDA approved naltrexone, a drug that can reduce alcohol craving. In 2006, FDA approved an injectable long-lasting version of naltrexone. Prior to approval of these drugs, the only medication physicians could offer to patients who were battling alcohol abuse and dependence was disulfiram, which had been approved for the treatment of alcoholism in 1949. Disulfiram increases the concentration of acetaldehyde in the body, which can cause unpleasant symptoms; anticipation of these effects can help some people avoid drinking.

2005—NIAAA published Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much: A Clinician's Guide to help primary care and mental health clinicians incorporate alcohol screening and intervention into their practices. The 2005 edition introduced a simple one-question screening tool that streamlined recommendations published in earlier NIAAA guides.

2005—The Surgeon General releases the Surgeon General's Advisory on Alcohol Use in Pregnancy, updated from the original advisory released in 1981. As with the 1981 report, NIAAA science contributed significantly to the development of this document, and NIAAA staff were instrumental in its crafting.

2007—NIAAA partnered with NIDA, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and HBO to produce Addiction, an Emmy-award winning documentary exploring alcohol and drug addiction, treatment, and recovery, and featuring interviews with medical researchers working to better understand and treat addictive disorders.

2008—The Acting Surgeon General of the United States issued The Surgeon General's Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. NIAAA’s Underage Drinking Research Initiative provided much of the scientific foundation for that document.

2008—NIAAA published a special supplemental issue of the journal Pediatrics External Web Site Policy , presenting a developmental framework for understanding and addressing underage drinking as a guide to future research, prevention, and treatment efforts. The research reflected in these articles contributed to the development of The Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking External Web Site Policy .

2010—NIAAA celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding on December 31, 1970. In addition to placing vibrant anniversary banners across the NIH campus, NIAAA published a special double issue of its peer-reviewed journal, Alcohol Research & Health. This anniversary issue describes the Institutes' public health impact and multidisciplinary contributions to alcohol research. Additionally, on October 4, 2010, the Institute hosted a special symposium recognizing the 40th anniversary. At this symposium, leaders in the field discussed the ways in which alcohol research has evolved over the past 40 years, as well as NIAAA's role in this progress.

2011—NIAAA released Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner's Guide, Developed in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, clinical researchers, and health practitioners, the guide introduces a two-question screening tool and an innovative youth alcohol risk estimator to help clinicians overcome time constraints and other common barriers to youth alcohol screening.

2012—NIH announces the Trans-NIH Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction Functional Integration that will enhance the NIH Institute and Center collaborations around this important scientific and public health topic. The Functional Integration is a collaborative framework that will draw on the collaboration among the NIH ICs on substance use, abuse, and addiction-related research. NIAAA and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have made significant progress at integrating their intramural research programs in substance use, abuse, and addiction, including the appointment of a single Clinical Director for both Institutes and the establishment of a joint genetics Intramural Research Program and a common Optogenetics lab. By pooling resources and expertise, the Functional Integration will identify cross-cutting areas of research and confront challenges faced by multiple Institutes and Centers.

2013 – NIAAA helped establish and participated in the NIH partnership, Collaborative Research at NIH (CRAN). CRAN’s mission is to provide a strong collaborative framework to enable the NIAAA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to integrate resources and expertise to advance substance use, abuse, and addiction research and public health outcomes. NIAAA helped launch a website, http://www.addictionresearch.nih.gov, which makes funding opportunities and research resources readily available to the public.

In addition, NIAAA developed and launched an online course for health care professionals to learn more about screening youth for alcohol problems. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, and others can take the online training to earn continuing medical education credits. The course, produced jointly with Medscape, shows providers how to conduct fast, evidence-based alcohol screening and brief intervention for patients 9 – 18 years of age. Since its launch in August, more than 5,000 health care professionals have earned credit for the course. The course can be accessed at: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/aug2013/niaaa-12.htm

Legislative Chronology

December 31, 1970—NIAAA was established under authority of the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-616) with authority to develop and conduct comprehensive health, education, training, research, and planning programs for the prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

May 14, 1974—P.L. 93-282 was passed, establishing NIAAA, NIMH, and NIDA as coequal institutes within the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA).

July 26, 1976—NIAAA's research authority was expanded to include behavioral and biomedical etiology of the social and economic consequences of alcohol abuse and alcoholism under authority of the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act amendments of 1976 (P.L. 94-371).

August 1981—The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (P.L. 97-35) was passed, transferring responsibility and funding for alcoholism treatment services to the states through the creation of an Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services block grant administered by ADAMHA and strengthening NIAAA's research mission.

October 27, 1986—A new Office for Substance Abuse Prevention in ADAMHA was created through the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-570), which consolidated the remainder of NIAAA's nonresearch prevention activities with those of NIDA and permitted NIAAA's total commitment to provide national stewardship to alcohol research.

July 10, 1992—NIAAA became a new NIH research institute under the ADAMHA Reorganization Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-321).

December 20, 2006—The Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (P.L. 109-422) was passed, requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to formally establish and enhance the efforts of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Prevention of Underage Drinking that began operating in 2004.

Biographical Sketch of NIAAA Director Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D. (Acting)

George Koob, Ph.D., an internationally-recognized expert on alcohol and stress, and the neurobiology of alcohol and drug addiction, began his tenure as Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) on January 27, 2014. As NIAAA Director, Dr. Koob oversees NIAAA’s $458 million budget, which funds alcohol-related research in a wide range of scientific areas including genetics, neuroscience, epidemiology, prevention, and treatment.

Even before beginning as NIAAA Director, Dr. Koob had a longstanding relationship with the Institute.  Throughout his career, he received funding from NIAAA and other NIH institutes for many significant research projects.  Importantly, he also led a 10-year, NIAAA-funded, multi-institutional consortium dedicated to identifying the molecular basis of alcoholism.

Dr. Koob received his Ph.D. in Behavioral Physiology from Johns Hopkins University in 1972. He spent most of his career at the Scripps Research Institute, where he served as the Director of the Alcohol Research Center, and as Professor and Chair of the Scripps’ Committee on the Neurobiology of Addictive Disorders.  Early in his career, he served as a researcher in the Department of Neurophysiology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and in the Arthur Vining Davis Center for Behavioral Neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.  He was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Koob began his career studying the neurobiology of emotion, including how the brain processes reward and stress. His contributions advanced our understanding of the anatomical connections of emotional systems and the neurochemistry of emotional function.  This background led to investigations into why certain alcohol drinkers develop an addiction while others do not, and how the brain and body respond to alcohol consumption.

Dr. Koob’s work has significantly broadened our understanding of the neurocircuity associated with the acute reinforcing effects of alcohol and other drugs of abuse, and of the neuroadaptations of the reward circuits that lead to dependence.  In addition, he has validated key animal models for dependence associated with alcohol and drugs and identified the major role that brain stress systems play in the development of dependence.Dr. Koob is the author of more than 600 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and the co-author of The Neurobiology of Addiction, a comprehensive review of the most critical neurobiology of addiction research conducted over the past 50 years.

Dr. Koob is the recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, including the Daniel Efron Award for excellence in research from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, the Distinguished Investigator and Marlatt Mentorship Awards from the Research Society on Alcoholism, and the Mark Keller Award from NIAAA.

NIAAA Directors

Name In Office from To
Morris E. Chafitz 1972 September 1, 1975
Ernest P. Noble February 1976 April 1978
Loran Archer (Acting) April 1978
November 1981
January 1986
April 1979
July 1982
October 1986
John R. DeLuca May 1979 October 1981
William E. Mayer (Acting) August 1982 July 1983
Robert G. Niven August 1983 December 1985
Enoch Gordis November 1986 January 2002
Raynard Kington (Acting) January 2002 November 2002
Ting-Kai Li November 2002 October 2008
Kenneth R. Warren (Acting) November 2008 January 2014
George Koob, Ph.D January 27, 2014 Present

Divisions and Offices

Office of the Director

The Office of the Director leads the Institute by setting research and programmatic priorities and coordinating cross-cutting initiatives. The Office includes:

  • Office of Extramural Activities, Director: Abraham Bautista, Ph.D.
    The Office of Extramural Activities is responsible for extramural grant and contract review, the management of chartered initial review groups and special emphasis panels, and all grants management activities. OEA also manages the Committee Management Office—responsible for advisory council activities and nominations to advisory and review panels—and provides advice to the Institute's senior leadership on matters that concern FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) and non-FACA meetings.
  • Office of Science Policy and Communications, Director: Vivian Faden, Ph.D.
    The Office of Science Policy and Communications is responsible for science policy, planning, evaluation and reporting functions for NIAAA; the preparation of briefing materials on alcohol research; and responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. Additionally, the office also coordinates all media relations, produces materials for scientific and lay audiences, and acts as the public face of the Institute.
  • Office of Resource Management, Director: Mr. Keith Lamirande
    The Office of Resource Management provides administrative management support to the Institute in the areas of financial management, grants and contracts management, administrative services, and personnel operations; develops administrative management policies, procedures, guidelines, and operations; maintains liaison with the management staff of the Office of the Director; and implements within the Institute general management policies prescribed by NIH and higher authorities.

Intramural Research

The overall goal of NIAAA's Division of Intramural Clinical and Biological Research is to understand the mechanisms by which alcohol produces intoxication, dependence, and damage to vital body organs, and to develop tools to prevent and treat those biochemical and behavioral processes. The cellular and molecular processes relevant to the actions of alcohol are also subject to our studies. Areas of study include identification and assessment of genetic and environmental risk factors for the development of alcoholism; the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system, including mechanisms of neuroplasticity and neural functions that underlie addictive behavior; metabolic and biochemical effects of alcohol on various organs and systems of the body; noninvasive imaging of the brain structure and activity related to alcohol use; development of animal models of alcoholism; conducting epidemiologic research on alcohol use, abuse, and dependence; and the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of alcoholism and associated disorders.

NIAAA uses a combination of clinical and basic research facilities, which enable a coordinated interaction between basic research findings and clinical applications in pursuit of these goals. An inpatient unit and an outpatient program are located in the NIH Clinical Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

NIAAA intramural researchers investigate a number of areas, including:

  • genetic studies investigating, identifying, and characterizing genes that contribute to individual susceptibility to alcoholism and alcohol-related behaviors;
  • translational studies aimed to identify novel molecular targets of alcohol in the brain and to develop/test novel compounds that interact with such targets for the treatment of alcohol use disorders;
  • studies seeking a better understanding of the underlying factors of alcoholic liver disease;
  • national surveillance activities to collect, analyze, and report epidemiological data on alcohol use, abuse, and dependence, and their associated disabilities;
  • behavioral and neurophysiological studies to understand the mechanisms of the motivation to drink and the factors that influence it; and
  • studies to determine how alcohol interacts with nerve cells and the brain's signaling system to improve our understanding of the molecular basis of alcohol dependence and lead to development of treatments and prevention strategies.

Extramural Research

Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research

NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research (DEPR) seeks to reduce alcohol-related mortality and morbidity and other alcohol-related problems and consequences through the integration and application of epidemiology and prevention science by setting research priorities; stimulating and supporting research, training, and career development; conducting research and publishing in the scientific literature; promoting dialogue and collaboration between DEPR and other organizations; contributing to alcohol-related surveillance; and disseminating scientific information.

Two major areas of focus for the Division are:

  1. the epidemiology of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems, a broad area that includes the study of the following:
    • the etiology (investigating the origins and causes, including risk factors and protective factors) and the course of alcohol-related problems, including alcohol use disorders (AUDs);
    • the relationship of alcohol consumption and AUDs to unintentional and intentional injuries and other diseases and disorders (such as co-occurring psychiatric disorders as well as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver disease, and other chronic diseases), alcohol's relationship to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; the potential health benefits of alcohol consumption; and
    • alcohol-related consequences (including mortality and morbidity, violence, risky and unprotected sex, compromised academic/vocational achievement, and the economic costs of alcohol).
  2. the prevention of alcohol-related problems, a broad area that includes the study of the following:
    • the efficacy and effectiveness of screening and brief interventions, family-, school-, web-, and employment-based prevention interventions, as well as comprehensive/community prevention interventions and drinking-driving countermeasures; and
    • the impact of alcohol and other public policy, the media, and alcohol marketing and promotion.

Division of Metabolism and Health Effects

Chronic alcohol use affects every organ and system of the body. It also can lead to medical disorders (e.g., fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, liver disease, cardiomyopathy, pancreatitis, and cancer) throughout the lifespan—from early development to adolescence and adulthood—and contribute to the suppression of immune and endocrine functions. Heavy alcohol use also exacerbates tissue injury due to co-morbid conditions, such as hepatitis C, osteoporosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and increases the risk for certain cancers. NIAAA's Division of Metabolism and Health Effects (DMHE) supports a wide range of research to elucidate the genetic, epigenetic, metabolic, and immunologic mechanisms of alcohol-induced tissue injury that contribute to the initiation and progression of these disorders.

The division supports basic and clinical research studies to identify the molecular pathways through which alcohol causes organ and tissue damage, with the goal of identifying targets for drug discovery to prevent or treat alcohol-related disorders. The potential for tissue repair and regeneration following tissue damage due to chronic heavy drinking is being explored through stem cell therapy, gene targeting, and pharmacogenomics. Multidisciplinary research and systems biology approaches are also used to study mechanisms of alcohol action and injury.

DMHE supports metabolic research on enzymes, proteins, substrates, substrate adducts, co-factors, vitamins, nucleic acids, sugars, and other metabolites that may be affected by alcohol or alcohol by-products. Other basic investigations seek to identify biomarkers for the early stages of disease using genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic approaches that will facilitate early identification and treatment before diseases become irreversible. Recent initiatives developed by DMHE staff have supported research into the etiology and treatment of alcoholic hepatitis and the relationship between alcohol use and cancer. DMHE also supports research to elucidate the mechanism of alcohol's potential beneficial effects, including studies related to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain inflammatory diseases.

Division of Neuroscience and Behavior

The Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB) promotes research on ways in which neuronal and behavioral systems are influenced by genetic, developmental, and environmental factors in conjunction with alcohol exposure to engender alcohol abuse and alcoholism. A primary goal is to support investigations into neural and behavioral processes promoting the initiation and maintenance of drinking, as well as enduring changes in the brain resulting from long-term alcohol exposure that drive excessive alcohol drinking. The program includes studies on basic mechanisms of alcohol action on intracellular signaling pathways, neuronal membrane structure and function, ion channels and receptors, and the physiology of neurotransmission. Another goal is to identify and characterize the neural and cognitive consequences of acute, binge, and chronic alcohol exposure.

To address these goals, DNB supports three major collaborative multidisciplinary programs. The Collaborative Study of the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) seeks to identify the role of genes in susceptibility to (or protection from) developing alcohol dependence and related phenotypes. The ultimate goal is to understand the functional effects of variation at genes identified in these studies, including effects on expression, at the molecular and cellular level. The Integrative Neuroscience Initiative on Alcoholism (INIA), a consortium investigating the mechanisms that underlie neuroadaptation to alcohol, integrates neurobiological, behavioral, and molecular genetic research and provides opportunities for scientific collaboration. Major themes explored in this program include the role of stress in phenotypes related to alcohol dependence and the identification of druggable targets for potential pharmacotherapies. The Neurobiology of Adolescent Drinking in Adulthood (NADIA) supports a consortium of highly integrated multidisciplinary research efforts across different research institutions to elucidate persistent changes in complex brain function–behavior relationships following adolescent alcohol exposure using animal models.

In addition to these collaborative programs, DNB supports research on the molecular, genetic, cellular, and neural mediators of alcohol dependence, tolerance, sensitization, withdrawal, and relapse. This research includes developing animal models that will increase our understanding of the acute and chronic effects of alcohol exposure. DNB’s preclinical medication research program seeks to identify compounds that reduce alcohol drinking or alleviate adverse conditions prompting relapse. The goal of this program is to test the potential therapeutic efficacy of new and existing compounds and discover their therapeutic mechanism of action. In addition, DNB supports basic behavioral research that applies concepts from psychological science to understanding alcohol dependence and related problems.

Areas of particular interest include:

  • the consequences of alcohol use during pregnancy that produce fetal alcohol spectrum disorders;
  • the effects of alcohol drinking on the adolescent brain and throughout the lifespan;
  • targets for preclinical medication development;
  • cognitive and psychological processes involved in regulating alcohol drinking and the acquisition of drinking problems;
  • genes and gene networks involved in alcohol drinking and alcohol withdrawal effects and their contribution to the development of alcohol dependence;
  • phenotypes related to alcohol dependence such as impulsivity, anxiety and depression.

Division of Treatment and Recovery Research

The mission of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research is to build a body of knowledge, primarily through extramural research and an in-house clinical trials capability, on areas including:

  • Treatment of alcohol abuse and alcoholism
  • The delivery of alcohol-related services
  • The translation of promising pharmacologic and behavioral interventions from bench-to-bedside and from patient-to-community.

One priority is to better understand the underlying mechanisms of behavioral change, both for change that occurs naturally outside of formal treatment as well as within our current psychosocial and behavioral therapies, including mutual self-help groups.  The primary goal of this objective is to identify and isolate the active ingredients that underlie how psychosocial and behavioral therapies operate, and to understand the “how” and “why” they work.  

Another priority is to develop and identify medications that reduce risk of relapse and prevent or reverse alcohol-induced tissue damage. That is because alcohol dependence is a complex disorder involving many targets in the brain to regulate alcohol-seeking and drinking behavior, including multiple neurotransmitters and neuromodulators.  Thus, the division continues to explore a range of medications to improve treatment outcomes. Currently, several medications are at various stages of development, ranging from preclinical research to clinical application, for the treatment of alcohol dependence.

Health services research is another critical focus for the Division. Current priorities include health economics research, research on stigma and help-seeking behavior, and research on implementation of evidence-based practices and quality improvement in treatment settings.

Another goal of the Division is to develop specialized pharmacologic and psychosocial treatments for special populations.  The populations include, but are not necessarily limited to, adolescents, minority groups, HIV/AIDS, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and other special populations (e.g., elderly, criminal justice).  In addition, the Division prioritizes research on developing innovative therapies to treat alcohol dependent/abuse patients with a co-occurring medical or psychiatric disorder.  

The Division also seeks to improve understanding of the processes involved in alcohol relapse, recovery and craving. This involves bridging animal and human research and identifying elements common to both animal and human models. 

Trans-Divisional Program Activity

Staff of the NIAAA intramural and extramural programs engages in cross-cutting program activities to address the inherently interdisciplinary nature of alcohol research. NIAAA's Trans-Divisional Research Emphasis and Resource Development teams, working groups, and committees focus on biomarkers; centers and training programs, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders; gene-environment studies; HIV/AIDS; health disparities and minority research; informatics and computational/systems biology; international research; mechanisms of behavioral change; medications development; research resources and technology; and underage drinking.

Examples of cross-institute activity include the following:

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Research

NIAAA is the lead Federal agency for research on how alcohol consumption during pregnancy results in adverse consequences for the fetus, the most serious of which is fetal alcohol syndrome. This developmental disorder is characterized by reduced growth; facial abnormalities; and neurological, cognitive, and behavioral impairment. NIAAA chairs the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, created in 1996 in response to an Institute of Medicine report. In 2003, NIAAA launched the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, a cooperative agreement program to improve diagnosis and develop effective treatment approaches through highly integrated, multidisciplinary research projects at both domestic and international sites. Also in 2003, NIAAA and the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development established the Prenatal Alcohol, SIDS, and Stillbirth (PASS) Research Network to determine the underlying causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and stillbirth and the role played by prenatal alcohol exposure.

International Programs

Alcohol use disorders are significant global health problems, and NIAAA has an ongoing program of international collaborative research to facilitate improved knowledge and care in this area. Much of the international research cooperation is carried out under formal "letters of intent" that are signed by the NIH and/or NIAAA Director and the heads of public and university medical research centers in foreign countries. For example, NIAAA has an active program of scientific exchange with the French Institut National de la Santè et de la Recherche Mèdicale (INSERM), and has signed letters of intent to foster research cooperation and scientific exchange with the National Institute on Alcoholism in Japan; the Peking University Institute of Mental Health and the Institute of Nutritional Sciences in Bejing, China; the National Health Research Institute in Taiwan; and the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alcohol Research Centers Program

NIAAA's Alcohol Research Centers Program provides long-term support for interdisciplinary research that focuses on particular aspects of alcohol use disorders and alcohol-related problems. The program encourages outstanding scientists from many disciplines who can provide a full range of expertise, approaches, and advanced technologies to work on various aspects of alcohol use disorders or other alcohol-related problems. The program is interrelated with and complementary to all other research support mechanisms and scientific activities that investigate the causes, diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and consequences of alcohol use disorders.

Trans-NIH Program Activity

NIAAA collaborates with other NIH institutes and centers to generate and support broad research initiatives (e.g., Collaborative Research on Addictions at NIH, and the NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research). In addition, NIAAA staff share their scientific expertise with other NIH institutes and centers to advance medical science in all areas of human health. More information about these initiatives can be found at NIH’s Trans-NIH Collaborations website. In addition, NIAAA and NIDA intramural scientists study addiction related issues together, at the inpatient unit and outpatient program located in the NIH Clinical Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Intra-HHS Program Activity

NIAAA staff and scientists work with other HHS agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Control, Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration) to support and disseminate scientific research that improves public health. More details about these collaborative activities are described at the Intra-Agency Collaborations Reporting System website.

Communications and Outreach Activities

NIAAA maintains a communications program aimed at informing health care practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and the general public about findings from supported research programs. Examples of communications products include:

  • Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner's Guide, a screening tool and youth alcohol risk estimator for use by health professionals.
  • Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much—A Clinician's Guide, and numerous other resources for health professionals
  • Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, a peer-reviewed journal published three times a year
  • the Alcohol Alert series, bulletins on research findings for health professionals published three times a year
  • Public service announcements, videos, posters, brochures, pamphlets, fact sheets, Web pages, and other materials for the general public.
  • Online resources—available on the NIAAA Web site, including:
    • www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov, a drinking pattern “checkup” worksheets for weighing pros and cons, making a change plan, and selecting strategies for cutting down or quitting; and calculators for estimating alcohol calories and spending, and the alcohol content of cocktails;
    • www.spectrum.niaaa.nih.gov, an online webzine featuring the latest alcohol research news from within NIAAA and throughout the alcohol field;
    • www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov, statistics, factsheets, and reports about college drinking the health consequences of alcohol misuse, campus alcohol policies, and other information for college students, administrators, and parents;
    • www.TheCoolSpot.gov, quizzes, games, and graphics featuring messages about the risks of underage drinking and ways to resist peer pressure for middle school audiences;
    • the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS), state-by-state data on a wide variety of alcohol-related policies; and
    • NIAAA Clinical Trials, links guiding patients and clinicians to NIAAA-sponsored research trials conducted at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and at research centers across the country.
  • Social media outreach including a Twitter page with regular posts and occasional Twitter chats that allow members of the public and research community to ask questions and receive answers from experts in real time.
  • NIAAA developed a calendar of seasonal outreach to capitalize on the times of the year alcohol issues are top of mind for many Americans. These seasons are summertime, including around July 4th, spring graduation time, and around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Outreach materials offer relevant statistics, practical science-based commentary, and links to the NIAAA website through fact sheets, videos, billboards, and digital images.
  • Summertime materials were picked up by more than 600 news outlets, including Yahoo!, The Boston Globe, The Sacramento Bee, and The Miami Herald.  Numerous online, television, and radio sites also linked to the information, for a combined potential audience of approximately 60,000,000.
  • Winter holiday materials were distributed through PR Newswire, generating   more than 350 online postings by websites for local TV affiliates, blogs, and news outlets such as the Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Sacramento Bee, reaching a total audience of more than 71 million.
  • In addition, an animated 15-second NIAAA holiday video ran from December 1, 2013 to January 3, 2014 on the David Letterman screen in New York City’s Times Square, reaching an audience of 1.5 million each day.

These sites and other resources can be found at www.niaaa.nih.gov.

This page last reviewed on October 21, 2014

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