National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)


The mission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is to advance science on the causes and consequences of drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health. In this regard, NIDA addresses the most fundamental and essential questions about drug abuse — from detecting and responding to emerging drug abuse trends and understanding how drugs work in the brain and body, to developing and testing new approaches to treatment and prevention. NIDA also supports research training, career development, public education, public-private partnerships, and research dissemination efforts. Through its Intramural Research Program, as well as grants and contracts to investigators at research institutions around the country and overseas, NIDA supports research to:

  • Identify the biological, environmental, behavioral and social causes and consequences of drug use and addiction across the lifespan;
  • Develop improved strategies to prevent drug use and its consequences;
  • Develop new and improved treatments to help people with substance use disorders achieve and maintain a meaningful and sustained recovery;
  • Increase the public health impact of NIDA research and programs

In line with these goals, NIDA works to ensure that the following cross-cutting themes are addressed across institute programs and initiatives:

Important Events in NIDA History

1935 — A research facility is established in Lexington, KY, as part of a U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) hospital. It became the Addiction Research Center in 1948.

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

1974 — NIDA is established as the Federal focal point for research, treatment, prevention, 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, is initiated to measure prevalence and trends of non-medical drug use and related attitudes of high school seniors and young adults.

NIDA begins its "Research Monograph Series." Each monograph contains scientific papers that discuss a variety of subjects, including drug abuse treatment and prevention research.

1976 — NIDA establishes 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 continues 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, resulting 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 establishes 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, DC: "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 obtains approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for levomethadyl acetate (LAAM), the first medication approved in a decade for the treatment of opioid addiction. Although the FDA approval was an important milestone in medications development, subsequent findings revealed more effective treatment options for opioid abuse, resulting in a consensus that the use of LAAM should be discontinued.

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

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

1996 — NIDA dedicates the Regional Brain Imaging Center located at the Institute's intramural research center in Baltimore.

1997 — NIDA releases Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide, which describes the most successful concepts for preventing drug abuse among young people.

The Institute sponsors "Heroin Use and Addiction: A National Conference on Prevention, Treatment, and Research," in Washington, DC.

In partnership with the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC), NIDA launches the annual PRISM awards for accurate depiction of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco in feature films and television productions.

1998 — NIDA launches the "NIDA Goes to School" initiative to provide middle school students with accurate information on how drugs affect the brain. As a part of this initiative, more than 18,000 middle schools across the country received a compilation of resource materials.

1999 — In collaboration with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 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-world treatment settings.

NIDA releases Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide, developed for use in local communities. The guide 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.

2001 — The Institute launches the National Prevention Research Initiative to stimulate research that will fill critical gaps in the knowledge and use of science-based drug abuse prevention strategies in communities across the country.

2002 — The Institute launches the new peer-reviewed journal Science and Practice Perspectives to encourage more collaboration between researchers and practitioners.

The FDA approves buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid dependence. NIDA, in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry, supported the development of this medication, which can be prescribed in a physician's office. This is a watershed event in the treatment of chronic opioid addiction, which previously required daily visits to specialized clinics for methadone dispensing.

With support from eight partner agencies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice, NIDA launches a major research initiative called the Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS). The goal of CJ-DATS is to establish a research infrastructure to develop and test models for an integrated approach to the treatment of incarcerated individuals with drug abuse or addictive disorders.

NIDA releases a new elementary school curriculum, Brain Power! The NIDA Junior Scientist Program, for use in second- and third-grade classrooms.

NIDA teams with Scholastic, a leading provider of educational materials for children and teachers, in launching a project to bring science-based information about drug abuse to millions of U.S. school children.

NIDA releases Principles of HIV Prevention in Drug-Using Populations: A Research-Based Guide to help communities prevent the spread of HIV.

2003 — NIDA releases its newly updated publication, Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders, Second Edition, which reflects NIDA's expanded research program and knowledge base in the area of drug abuse prevention.

NIDA launches its "NIDA Goes Back to School" campaign and "NIDA for Teens" website in an effort to keep parents, teachers, and teenagers informed about the science behind drug abuse.

NIDA seeks to address the gap that exists in the drug abuse treatment field between clinical practice and basic scientific investigation through the establishment of its "Blending" series of meetings. The 2003 meeting was titled "Blending Clinical Practice and Research: Forging Partnerships in the Rocky Mountain States to Enhance Drug Addiction Treatment."

2004 — NIDA collaborates with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other Federal agencies to design a traveling museum exhibit, which debuted in New York City. This exhibit draws attention to the social, economic, and medical consequences associated with drug abuse.

2005 — NIDA expands efforts to understand how drugs of abuse influence brain development through new research initiatives and collaborations with other NIH Institutes on pediatric neuroimaging studies.

NIDA launches an HIV/AIDS campaign to raise awareness regarding the link between drug abuse and HIV transmission. As a part of this effort, NIDA develops a public service announcement that is aired across the Nation and displayed in Washington DC's Metro system. NIDA also develops a dedicated website, creates a "Research Report," and holds a scientific meeting on drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. A Spanish version of the public service announcement is developed for distribution the following year.

2006 — NIDA launches its Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations: A Research-Based Guide, summarizing proven components for successfully treating drug abusers who have entered the criminal justice system.

2007 — NIDA, in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), releases five Blending Team products to facilitate the adoption of effective research-based treatment by community practitioners. Products include education and training materials on: treatment protocols using buprenorphine, motivational interviewing, motivational incentives, and the Addiction Severity Index for treatment planning.

NIDA releases its first plain-language booklet explaining the science behind addiction. Drugs, Brains, & Behavior — The Science of Addiction discusses the reasons people take drugs, why some people become addicted while others do not, how drugs work in the brain, and how addiction can be prevented and treated. View Image.

NIDA joins with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and HBO to produce the Emmy Award-winning documentary titled "Addiction," which explores many elements of drug and alcohol addiction through the eyes of those who are addicted and features the insights of scientific experts working to better understand and treat this devastating disease.

NIDA holds the first national "Drug Facts Chat Day." High school students in schools from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam submitted over 36,000 questions on a wide range of drug abuse-related topics. View Images.

2008 — NIDA launches its Avant-Garde Award to support HIV/AIDS-focused investigators of exceptional creativity who propose bold and highly innovative research approaches that have the potential to produce a major impact on treatment and/or prevention

NIDA launches the first annual Addiction Science award, with Scholastic as co-sponsor (and in subsequent years with Friends of NIDA), at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the world's largest science competition for high school students. Three Addiction Science awards were given to talented high school scientists to foster their interest in addiction research.

2009NIDA launches a comprehensive Physicians Outreach Initiative, NIDAMED, which gives medical professionals tools and resources to screen their patients for tobacco, alcohol, illicit, and nonmedical prescription drug use, including an interactive online drug abuse screening tool — the NIDA-modified ASSIST.

NIDA unveils a series of new teaching tools, through its Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program (NIDA CoEs). The new NIDA CoE curriculum resources provide scientifically accurate information on substance abuse, addiction and its consequences to help meet the educational needs of medical students, residents and medical school faculty.

NIDA sponsors a virtual town hall meeting, bringing together representatives from key federal agencies involved in preventing and combating substance abuse in the United States. Participants were linked via satellite from Washington, DC, to Camden, Maine, where members of five local communities, as well as community leaders from Freeport, Illinois, and Quincy, Washington, talked about their success in implementing the Communities That Care (CTC) system aimed at keeping youth safe from drugs.

NIDA-funded research, published in the October issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, shows promise for treating cocaine addiction. The study is the first successful, placebo-controlled demonstration of a vaccine against an illicit drug of abuse.

NIDA’s director, Dr. Nora Volkow, was awarded the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science.

2010 — NIDA collaborates with the Department of Veteran Affairs and two NIH institutes to award 11 research institutions in 11 states more than $6 million in federal funding to support research on substance abuse and associated problems among U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families.

NIDA launches its Avant-Garde Medications Development Research Award designed to support researchers whose innovative approaches could have a major impact on the development of addiction medications. The newly launched research competition is an extension of NIDA's successful Avant-Garde Award for Innovative HIV/AIDS Research.

Two developments in the treatment of opioid addiction herald important advances for addressing this worldwide epidemic: The FDA approves Vivitrol, a long-acting injectable form of naltrexone, for opioid dependence, which could address compliance issues of oral naltrexone by allowing for once a month dosing. Similarly, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows promising findings for a long-acting implantable formulation of buprenorphine (Probuphine). NIDA is supporting further research on the clinical efficacy of Probuphine.

NIDA launches three new curriculum resources for NIDAMED’s Centers of Excellence for Physician Information Program: an objective structured clinical exam on opioid risk management; a lecture presentation on how to talk to patients about sensitive subjects, including drug/alcohol abuse, intimate partner violence, and sexual history/concerns; and a methamphetamine lecture and interclerkship that introduces learners to methamphetamine abuse and dependence.

NIDA launches its first annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a health observance week for teens aimed to shatter the myths about drugs. Through community-based events around the country and activities on the Web, on TV and through music, NIDA encouraged teens to get factual answers from scientific experts about drugs and drug abuse. Efforts included a collaboration with MusiCares® and the GRAMMY Foundation® to create the Teen Substance Abuse Awareness through Music Contest; the development of a new booklet Drug Facts: Shatter the Myths, a National IQ Challenge Quiz, as well as numerous media outreach efforts that reached millions nationwide.

NIDA launches pages on Facebook and Twitter, two widely viewed social networking websites. NIDA posts on both platforms highlight a variety of topics, including press releases, program initiatives, drug facts, research updates and other news of interest.

2011 — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health announce a joint, large-scale, national study of tobacco use to monitor and assess the behavioral and health impacts of new government tobacco regulations. The initiative, called The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study will follow more than 40,000 people with a focus on users of tobacco-products and those at risk for tobacco product use ages 12 and older in the United States.

NIDA launches the Addiction Performance Project (APP), a CME & CE program to help break down the stigma associated with addiction and promote a healthy dialogue that fosters compassion, cooperation, and understanding for patients living with this disease. This project is part of NIDA's outreach to practicing health professionals and those in training. Each performance begins with a dramatic reading of Act III of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night by award-winning professional actors, followed by a brief expert panel reaction and facilitated audience discussion. Lead actresses have Debra Winger, Blythe Danner, Dianne Wiest, and Kathryn Erbe. The APP performances appeared in Washington, DC; Phoenix, AZ; Boston, MA; Denver, Co; Chicago, Il, and Philadelphia, PA.View Image.

NIDA, along with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), launches a free, nationwide service to help primary care providers seeking to identify and advise substance-abusing patients. The service, Physician Clinical Support System for Primary Care (PCSS-P), offers peer-to-peer mentorship and resources on incorporating screening and follow-up into regular patient care. NIDA also launches the NIDA Quick Screen, a single question screening tool, to facilitate screening for drug use in primary care settings. Both tools are part of the NIDAMED program. View Image.

NIDA launches PEERx, an updated prescription drug section on its teen Web site for teens to find interactive videos and other tools that help them make decisions about abusing prescription drugs based on real life situations they encounter at school and in life.

NIDA's award-winning peer-reviewed journal, Addiction Science & Clinical Practice (AS&CP), moves to Biomed Central (BMC), but remains available on the web at no charge. NIDA's news and analysis of research findings in its bi-monthly NIDA Notes is also transitioned to an all web format.

2012 — NIDA launches Family Checkup, an online resource that equips parents with research-based skills to help keep their children drug-free.

To address the complex problem of prescription opioid abuse, NIDA, in partnership with the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Medscape, launches online continuing medical education (CME) courses for health care providers on proper prescribing and patient management practices for opioid analgesics (painkillers). The CME courses, which include video vignettes modeling doctor-patient conversations on the safe and effective use of opioid pain medications, are part of NIDA’s NIDAMED initiative, created to help physicians, medical interns and residents, and other clinicians understand and address substance abuse in their practices. To broaden the use of the NIDAMED tools and resources, NIDA’s drug use screening tool was modified to be fully accessible from mobile devices.

NIDA launches an easy-to-read website on drug abuse designed for adults with a low reading literacy level (eighth grade or below), which provides plain language information on neuroscience, drug abuse, and prevention and treatment, and is also a resource for adult literacy educators.

NIDA launches a new publication, Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask, to help individuals and families struggling with addiction to ask the right questions before choosing a drug treatment program.

2013 — NIDA partners with AstraZeneca to explore a medication to treat drug addiction. The scientific partnership will explore a specific molecule that modulates the activity of glutamate — an excitatory neurotransmitter. Preclinical studies with this class of molecule indicate that it could be effective for treating a range of disorders, including drug addiction.

NIDA signs a Memorandum of Intent with the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) — the French scientific and technological institute focusing on human health — to strengthen cooperation in basic and clinical research and research training, specifically in the areas of neuroscience and psychiatry. View Image.

NIDA launches the Juvenile Justice Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS). As part of this cooperative, seven research centers will collaborate to determine how juvenile justice programs can effectively adopt science-based prevention and treatment services for drug abuse and HIV.

NIDA, NIAAA, and NCI form the Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN). This partnership will integrate resources and expertise to advance the science and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

NIDA partners with Lightlake Therapeutics Inc. to apply new technology for treating opioid overdose via intranasal naloxone.

2014 — NIDA launches a new online publication,Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research Based Guide, which describes evidence-based treatment approaches for teens.

NIDA’s Centers of Excellence (COE) for Physician Information develop a new medical educational module: Substance Use Disorders in Adolescents: Screening and Engagement in Primary Care Settings. It was created to increase early health care provider screening of teen substance abuse and includes videos demonstrating skills to use in screening teens at risk for or already struggling with substance use disorders.

NIDA Director Nora Volkow is lead author on a commentary in The New England Journal of Medicine on April 24, 2014 calling upon health care providers to expand their use of medications such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone, to treat opioid addiction and reduce overdose deaths. The commentary, co-authored by leaders across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, describes misperceptions that have limited access to these potentially life-saving medications, and discusses how medications can be used successfully in combination with behavior therapies.

NIDA, along with NIAAA, NICHD and NCI calls on the research community for help in designing The National Longitudinal Study of the Neurodevelopmental Consequences of Substance Use. The goal of the large-scale study is to establish the effects of occasional or regular use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs on the brains and lives of young Americans.

The first curriculum resource is released by the NIH Pain Consortium’s Centers of Excellence in Pain Education program (CoEPEs), coordinated by NIDA. The online training module was designed for the evaluation and care of chronic pain and was found to greatly improve medical student clinical skills. The CoEPE program was developed in response to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to advance the science, research, care and education of pain.

NIDA staff publish a review in The New England Journal of Medicine on June 4, 2014, summarizing the current state of science on the adverse health effects of marijuana. The review describes the science establishing that marijuana can be addictive and that this risk for addiction increases for daily or young users.It also offers insights into research on the gateway theory indicating that marijuana use, similar to nicotine and alcohol use, may be associated with an increased vulnerability to other drugs.

A new NIDA-supported dataset now allows researchers to compare their MRI-based scans against more than 10,000 brain images, thereby enhancing reliability and reproducibility. The Consortium for Reproducibility and Reliability (CoRR) dataset is managed by the Child Mind Institute (CMI).

NIDA announces the development of an innovative National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) to monitor emerging nation-wide drug trends. NDEWS will help health experts respond quickly to potential outbreaks of illicit drugs such as heroin and to identify increased use of designer synthetic compounds.

2015 — NIDA launches the Avenir Award programs for HIV/AIDS and genetics or epigentics research. The Avenir (meaning “future” in French) Awards support early stage investigators who propose highly innovative studies.

Along with other NIH collaborators, NIDA awards 13 grants to research institutions around the country as part of a landmark study about the effects of adolescent substance use on the developing brain. The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study will follow approximately 10,000 children beginning at ages 9 to 10, before they initiate drug use, through the period of highest risk for substance use and other mental health disorders.

Joining forces with NIAAA, NIDA expands its annual health observance week launched in 2010 to include alcohol. The “National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week” partnership allows teachers and other event organizers to access resources for drugs and alcohol all in one place.

NIDA reorganizes its divisional structure to integrate its research portfolio, promote translational research and increase efficiencies. The new structure incorporates research on clinical neuroscience, brain development and behavioral treatment development into existing and new formed components of NIDA divisions.

Intranasal naloxone –a nasal spray formulation of the medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose –is approved by the FDA. The new technology has an easy-to-use, needle-free design, providing family members, caregivers and first responders with an alternative to injectable naloxone for use during a suspected opioid overdose. The product, developed through a partnership between NIDA and Lightlake Therapeutics, is marketed under the brand name NARCAN® Nasal Spray.

NIDA releases its Strategic Plan for 2016-2020: Advancing Addiction Science.

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 USPHS 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 the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) 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 Amendments, created the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (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. Section 204 of this law, enacted and effective on May 14, 1974, gave NIDA a permanent statutory basis, and established NIDA as a freestanding Institute.

1979 — P.L. 96-181, the Drug Abuse Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Treatment Act, mandated that at least 7% in FY 1980 and 10% 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 Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services (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. The Act also 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 HHS (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 Acts 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% 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 HHS Secretary, acting through NIDA, to request a National Academy of Sciences study of U.S. programs that provide both sterile hypodermic needles and bleach.

1993 — P.L. 103-112, the Department of Labor, HHS and Education FY 1994 Appropriations Act, prohibited the use of funds under the Act for any further implementation of section 706 of P.L. 102-321 (see above) and 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 for FY 1998, continued prior restrictions on needle-exchange programs through March 31, 1998, permitting funding thereafter of those programs meeting certain statutory requirements including criteria of the HHS 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 4-year (FYs 1999-2002) national anti-drug media campaign aimed at youth.

1999 — P.L. 106-113, the Consolidated Appropriations Act-2000, continued the ban on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs; prohibited use of appropriated funds for promotion of legalization of any Schedule I controlled substance; and postponed termination of 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 on promotion of legalization of Schedule I controlled substances.

P.L. 106-310, the Children's Health Act of 2000, repealed the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966 [P.L. 89-793]; waived certain requirements of the Controlled Substances Act to permit qualified physicians to engage in office-based treatment of opiate dependence; and authorized expansion of NIDA research on methamphetamine and increased emphasis on ecstasy research.

2001 — P.L. 107-116, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 2002 Appropriations Act, continued prior prohibitions on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs and on legalization of Schedule I controlled substances.

2002 — Title II of P.L. 107-273, the Drug Abuse Education, Prevention, and Treatment Act of 2002, authorized NIDA expansion of interdisciplinary research and clinical trials with treatment centers of the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network; and required a NIDA study on development of medications for amphetamine/methamphetamine addiction.

2003 — Division G of P.L. 108-7, the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education FY 2003 Appropriations Act, continued prior prohibitions on funding of sterile needle and syringe exchange programs and on legalization of Schedule I controlled substances.

2004 — P.L. 108-358, the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 2004, significantly expanded the list of anabolic steroids classified as controlled substances; required a review of Federal sentencing guidelines; and authorized $15 million, for each of the next fiscal years through 2009, for educational programs in schools to highlight the dangers of steroids, with preference given to programs deemed effective by NIDA.

2005 — P.L. 109-56 amended the Controlled Substances Act to lift the patient limitations imposed on medical practitioners in group practices regarding the prescribing of drug addiction treatments. Section 2013 of P.L. 109-59, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, directed the Secretary of Transportation to advise and coordinate with other Federal agencies to address driving under the influence of controlled substances and, in cooperation with NIH (NIDA), to submit a report to Congress on drug-impaired driving.

2006 — P.L. 109-469, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Reauthorization Act of 2006, in section 1102, amended the Controlled Substances Act to further relax the patient limitations on provision of drug addiction treatments, allowing medical practitioners to notify the HHS Secretary of need and intent to treat up to 100 patients. Section 1120 required the ONDCP Director to consult with NIH (NIDA) and the National Academy of Sciences in making policy relating to syringe exchange programs.

2006P.L. 109-482 (H.R. 6164), the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006, reaffirmed certain organizational authorities of the NIH Director including establishing, abolishing, and reorganizing national research institutes. It established the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) to advise the NIH Director on the use of these organizational authorities. In 2009, the SMRB began discussions about how to optimize research into substance use, abuse, and addiction at the NIH. In 2010, the SMRB voted in favor of recommending to the NIH Director the establishment of a new institute for substance use, abuse, and addiction-related research and the dissolution of NIAAA and NIDA.

2008 — P.L. 110-199, Second Chance Act of 2007, reauthorized and rewrote provisions of the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act to expand reentry services for offenders. Required the Attorney General (1) to consult with NIDA (and SAMHSA) regarding performance outcome measures and data collection related to substance abuse and mental health services [sec.101 (k)]; and (2) in consultation with NIDA to conduct a study on the use and effectiveness of funding aftercare services for offenders completing substance abuse programs while incarcerated [sec. 102 (c)]. Permitted the U.S. Attorney General in consultation with NIDA to make research grants to evaluate the effectiveness of depot naltrexone for treatment of heroin addiction [sec. 244 (a)].

2009 — P.L. 111-117, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, changed federal law regarding potential funding for syringe exchange programs. The Act states: "None of the funds contained in this Act may be used to distribute any needle or syringe for the purpose of preventing the spread of blood borne pathogens in any location that has been determined by the local public health or local law enforcement authorities to be inappropriate for such distribution."; Thus, syringe exchange for this purpose is allowed unless public health or law enforcement authorities choose, at the local level, to prevent it. This change could result in additional research proposals, and thus funding, for syringe exchange-related research projects.

2010 — P.L. 111-148, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was signed into Law on March 23, 2010. This landmark legislation includes many of the provisions originally included in The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, passed as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act in October of 2008. Implementation of this legislation continues to develop, and is designed to help ensure that all Americans have access to mental health and addiction treatment. The parity language prohibits health insurers from placing discriminatory restrictions on such treatment and bars health plans from charging higher copayments, coinsurance, deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket limits and imposing lower day and visit limits on mental health and addiction care.

2011 — P.L. 112—74, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, rescinded the change made by P.L. 111-117 regarding potential funding for syringe exchange programs. The law now reads, "Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no funds appropriated in this Act shall be used to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug." It is so far unclear how these changes might affect research in this area.

2015 — The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 changed the rules again for federal funding related to syringe exchange programs. While current law continues the prohibition on the use of federal funds for the actual purchase of syringes or sterile needles, it does allow existing programs in hard-hit communities to access federal funds for other program elements, including substance use counseling and referral to treatment, that support communities in their drive to end the cycle of dependency.

Biographical Sketch of NIDA Director, Nora D. Volkow, M.D.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., became Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health in May 2003. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

Dr. Volkow's work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting, among others, the functions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive, and pleasure in addiction. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, ADHD, and aging.

Dr. Volkow was born in Mexico, attended the Modern American School, and earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she received the Premio Robins award for best medical student of her generation. Her psychiatric residency was at New York University, where she earned the Laughlin Fellowship Award as one of the 10 Outstanding Psychiatric Residents in the USA.

Dr. Volkow spent most of her professional career at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, NY, where she held several leadership positions, including Director of Nuclear Medicine, Chairman of the Medical Department, and Associate Director for Life Sciences. In addition, Dr. Volkow was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Dean of the Medical School at the State University of New York (SUNY)—Stony Brook.

Dr. Volkow has published more than 600 peer-reviewed articles and written more than 95 book chapters and non-peer-reviewed manuscripts, and has also edited three books on neuroimaging for mental and addictive disorders.

During her professional career, Dr. Volkow has been the recipient of multiple awards. In 2013, she was a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) finalist; and she was inducted into the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) Hall of Fame. She was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in the National Academy of Sciences and received the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science. She has been named one of Time magazine’s “Top 100 People Who Shape Our World,” “One of the 20 People to Watch” by Newsweek magazine, Washingtonian magazine’s “100 Most Powerful Women” and “Innovator of the Year” by U.S. News & World Report. Dr. Volkow was the subject of a 2012 profile piece by CBS’s 60 Minutes and was a featured speaker at TEDMED 2014.

NIDA Directors

Name In Office from To
Robert L. DuPont 1973 1978
William Pollin 1979 1985
Charles R. Schuster 1986 1992
Richard A. Millstein (Acting) 1992 1994
Alan I. Leshner 1994 2001
Glen R. Hanson (Acting) 2001 2003
Nora D. Volkow 2003 Present


Office of the Director

The Office of the Director (OD) leads the Institute by setting research and programmatic priorities. Cross-cutting initiatives are coordinated through special offices within the Office of the Director.

  • The Office of Diversity and Health Disparities aims to strengthen the NIDA extramural research portfolio through a more diverse and robust workforce, attracting and retaining talented individuals from all populations in order to fulfill the mission of the NIH and NIDA. The Office has two goals: (1) to increase the number of underrepresented scholars and researchers actively participating in and independently funded to conduct substance abuse research and (2) to ensure that research addressing minority/health disparities are adequately and appropriately represented in NIDA's extramural research portfolio.
  • The AIDS Research Program office provides direction and leadership for the ongoing development of an innovative and multidisciplinary HIV/AIDS research portfolio that addresses the current and unique dimensions of drug use and abuse as they relate to HIV/AIDS. The development and implementation of this research program is guided by the role of drug use and its related behaviors in the evolving dynamics of HIV/AIDS epidemiology, natural history/pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention, incoordination with the current priorities and objectives of the FY 2015 Trans-NIH Plan for HIV-Related Research and FY 2016 congressional Budget Justification (PDF, 740KB).
  • The NIDA International Program works with colleagues from around the world to find evidence-based solutions to the public health problems of drug abuse, addiction, and drug-related HIV/AIDS. The program builds partnerships with countries, organizations, and individual researchers to promote new research initiatives, build international research capacity, and disseminate knowledge. NIDA supports the International Program mission because the Institute recognizes that addiction knows no borders, and that no country can solve the problem by acting alone. The Program’s current research priorities are: (1) seek-test-treat and retain interventions and medication and vaccine development for HIV/AIDS; (2) nicotine addiction; and (3) integration and standardization of databases for brain imaging and genetics and associated phenotype information.
  • The Office of Translational Initiatives and Program Innovations (OTIPI) provides leadership for the pursuit of excellence in basic research translation and utilization of innovative programs to speed the application of research discoveries in the prevention, detection, and treatment of drug abuse and addiction. OTIPI aims at taking basic discoveries into candidate health applications.

Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research

The Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research (DESPR) promotes epidemiology, services and prevention research to understand and address the range of problems related to drug abuse in order to improve public health. The Division supports the full range of drug abuse epidemiology, prevention, and services research. Within these domains, major goals are to: (1) promote the development of new theoretical approaches to epidemiology, services and prevention research; (2) determine how intrapersonal and environmental factors interact with each other and with genetic factors across development in the course of drug abuse/addictions and related HIV risk behaviors; and (3) develop effective strategies to ensure that evidence-based practices are optimally utilized in the development of services to prevent and treat drug abuse/addictions.

Division of Neuroscience and Behavior

The Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB) advances the science of drug abuse and addiction through basic and clinical research. The Division supports basic and clinical biomedical neuroscience and behavioral research to address the public health problem of drug abuse and addiction. DNB accomplishes this mission by developing and supporting an extramural research program that provides an understanding of the neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms of drugs of abuse and their consequences. The research supported by DNB provides important fundamental information to prevent and/or intervene in drug abuse and addiction. Strategic directions include five main goals to promote basic research that applies state-of-the-art science and technologies to advance our understanding of the mechanisms mediating drug abuse and addiction. These goals are to: (1) validate targets and develop ligands to accelerate the discovery and development of pharmacotherapies for drug addiction; (2) determine the molecular (genetic and epigenetic) and cellular basis of addiction vulnerability; (3) identify the neural circuits and connections underlying drug addiction behaviors and their functional properties; (4) identify behavioral processes that underlie drug abuse and addiction; and (5) promote cross-cutting NIDA priorities in the areas of HIV/AIDS, pain, sex differences, novel technologies, and Big Data in computational neuroscience. The Division also supports training to increase the number of highly trained research investigators in the drug abuse field.

Center for the Clinical Trials Network

The Center for Clinical Trials Network (CCTN) manages NIDA's National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network (CTN), a multi-site research project of behavioral, pharmacological, and integrated treatment interventions to determine effectiveness across a broad range of community-based treatment settings and diversified patient populations. The CCTN is responsible for the scientific, administrative, budgetary, and operational management of the CTN. Together the CTN and the CCTN provide a foundation for conducting research with the primary goal of bridging the gap between the science of drug treatment and its practice through the study of scientifically based interventions in real world settings.

Division of Extramural Research

The Division of Extramural Research (DER) provides management and oversight on the development, implementation, and coordination of NIDA’s extramural programs, research training, policies, reviews, and operations planning. Research interests and goals are to: (1) develop, implement, and coordinate NIDA’s extramural programs, policies, reviews, and operations planning; (2) provide leadership and advice on scientific priorities and strategic goals for NIDA’s extramural research programs; (3) conduct or coordinate with the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) peer review of all NIDA grant applications; (4) oversee NIDA’s research training and early career development program; (5) lead NIDA’s involvement in vital trans-NIH initiatives; and (6) coordinate and lead activities of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse.

Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences

The Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences (DTMC) plans and directs studies necessary to identify, evaluate, develop, and obtain FDA marketing approval for new medications and devices to treat Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) and related medical and psychiatric conditions. The Division develops and administers a program on basic and clinical research to (a) develop innovative pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches to treat SUDs and related medical and psychiatric conditions and (b) investigate the medical consequences of drug abuse, including HIV/AIDS. DTMC supports research to identify valid and reliable outcome measures for clinical trials of therapeutics for SUDs. The Division also supports training in the pre-clinical and clinical research of therapeutics for SUDs. DTMC implements its research program through collaborations with (a) the pharmaceutical sector in both the United States and abroad, and (b) other federal therapeutic development programs. It also works closely with FDA in assuring that research designed to demonstrate the clinical efficacy of new compounds is evaluated and approved in an expeditious manner. Finally, the Division disseminates the knowledge acquired by the DTMC funded research.

Intramural Research Program

NIDA's Intramural Research Program is located in Baltimore, MD. Originally known as the Addiction Research Center, the Intramural Research Program 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 of injection drug users. Studies range from molecular to laboratory research with animals to clinical studies with human volunteers. The program employs the latest technologies — including optogenetic approaches and magnetic resonance imaging — 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.

Office of Science Policy and Communications

The Office of Science Policy and Communications leads NIDA's strategic efforts to inform public health policy and practice by ensuring the Institute is the trusted source for scientific information on drug abuse and addiction. The Office executes this goal by (1) developing, designing, and/or reviewing all materials for the public, including publications (e.g., NIDA Notes) and other resources; (2) initiating and monitoring press relations activities; (3) conducting public education and media campaigns; (4) interacting with Congress (e.g., developing NIDA’s Congressional budget justification and testimony; briefings) and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy; (5) directing constituent relations with scientific, professional, and community-based organizations with an interest in drug abuse research and related issues; (6) responding to inquiries from the public, NIH, HHS, other Federal Agencies, Congress, and the White House; (7) coordinating NIDA's science meetings, research training, and science education programs; (8) serving as OMB Clearance Office for NIDA-sponsored data collections; and (9) conducting portfolio analyses and evaluations of NIDA programs.

Office of Management

In partnership with the NIDA scientific leadership and program staff, the Office of Management provides executive management oversight and guidance including the delivery of timely, high quality, and responsive administrative services to support NIDA’s mission in a manner that reflects a commitment to excellence and the preservation of the public’s trust. The Office strives to facilitate science by (1) providing consistent and reliable customer service through enhanced communication; (2) delivering business solutions that enhance decision making through the use of reliable data; (3) developing and implementing a systematic and continuous risk management program that is designed to proactively identify, mitigate, reduce, and/or eliminate areas of vulnerability; and (4) creating human capital planning that is robust and focused on grooming our next generation of business leaders.

This page last reviewed on April 5, 2016