National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)


The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the lead federal agency supporting scientific research on drug use and addiction. NIDA’s mission is to advance science on drug use and addiction and to apply that knowledge to improve individual and public health through:

  • Strategically supporting and conducting basic, clinical, and epidemiological research on drug use, its consequences, and the underlying neurobiological, behavioral, and social mechanisms involved.
  • Ensuring the effective translation, implementation, and dissemination of scientific research findings to improve the prevention and treatment of SUDs, reduce the harms associated with drug use, guide policies, enhance public awareness of addiction as a chronic but treatable medical illness, and reduce stigma.

In line with this mission, NIDA works to ensure that the following research priorities are addressed across institute programs and initiatives:

NIDA also works to ensure that cross-cutting priorities are reflected across institute programs and initiatives, including:

  • training the next generation of scientists
  • identifying and developing approaches to reduce stigma
  • understanding sex, sexual orientation, and gender differences
  • identifying and developing approaches to reduce health disparities
  • understanding interactions between substance use, HIV, and other comorbidities
  • leveraging data science and analytics to understand real-world complexity
  • developing personalized interventions informed by people with lived experience

Important Events in NIDA History

1974 — Congress establishes NIDA as the federal focal point for biomedical research on the nature and extent of substance use and substance use disorders.

1975 — NIDA supports the first nationally representative survey of adolescent and young adult substance use and attitudes. The ongoing Monitoring the Future (MTF) Survey tracks trends in past-year, past-month, and lifetime substance use among 12th graders.

1979 — The NIDA Intramural Research Program (IRP) (formerly the Addiction Research Center) moves to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (then, the Francis Scott Key Medical Center) from Lexington, KY.

NIDA-supported scientists identify the brain chemical dynorphin. Its discovery, along with other parts of the natural opioid system in the brain, revolutionizes the addiction field.

1980 — NIDA-supported researchers release data showing caregivers and teachers who receive training in supporting their children’s social and emotional needs (the Raising Healthy Children intervention) raise young people with better behavioral and health outcomes, benefits that are passed to their offspring.

1984 — Nicotine replacement therapy is developed by NIDA-supported researchers

1991 — The Monitoring the Future Survey expands to include 8th and 10th graders.

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

1992 — NIDA-supported research isolates anandamide, a chemical in the brain that interacts with the active ingredient in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition, the researchers discover that anandamide also plays a role in other brain activities, such as pain relief, sedation, memory, and cognition.

NIDA researchers demonstrate the effectiveness of sublingual buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

NIDA joins the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

1993 — The NIDA Medications Development Program 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 use disorder.

1998 — As part of a team including the Pasteur Institute, Karolinska Institute and Glaxo Wellcome Geneva, a NIDA-supported researcher identifies a brain receptor activated by nicotine use. The finding identifies a potential target for smoking cessation treatment.

Researchers in NIDA's Intramural Research Program discover that the addiction pathway for cocaine is more complicated than previously understood. Researchers tested the theory that dopamine and serotonin were key to the euphoria associated with cocaine use, discovering that other factors may be involved in its rewarding effects.

NIDA scientists identify a chemical known as [D-Ala2,D-leu5]enkephalin (DADLE) that may help reduce long-term nerve damage from methamphetamine use. This has important implications for treating people with substance use disorder and the side effects of long-term substance use. 

NIDA research leads to the FDA approval of buproprion for smoking cessation.

1999 — NIDA-supported researchers report the first clinical cases of cannabis withdrawal. Two scientific studies suggest that irritability, stomach pain, and withdrawal from social interactions may be symptoms of quitting cannabis after ongoing use. The findings suggest that effective treatments to alleviate these symptoms are needed. They also suggest that continued use of cannabis may be an effort to alleviate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

NIDA awards grants to the first five regional sites under its new Clinical Trials Network (CTN). The network continues to conduct clinical research into medications for substance use disorders and to bring updated science to communities and healthcare offices.

Using brain scans and tracking cerebral phosphate metabolites, NIDA-supported researchers show that longer term methadone treatment is associated with brain recovery.

Research supported by NIDA identifies a way for scientists to estimate how likely an opioid is to cause tolerance and have the potential to cause addiction. The scale, called relative activity versus endocytosis or RAVE measure, calculates how effective different opioids are regulating the signaling of the opioid receptors they activate in the brain. It assesses the opioid’s ability to trigger cells to remove opioid receptors from the cell membrane, a process called internalization.

NIDA-supported research finds that HIV can survive in used syringes for four weeks or more after use. Specifically, the model estimates that blood containing HIV could survive in the razor-thin space inside the needle of the syringe.

NIDA-supported research identifies brain processes that increase the rewarding effects of cocaine the more a person uses it, a change thought to play an important role in the development of cocaine craving and addiction.

Researchers analyze the health care costs of substance use benefits and find substance use treatment is cost-effective. In this analysis, researchers found that changing even stringent limits on annual substance use benefits had only a small absolute effect on overall insurance costs under managed care, even though a large percentage of substance use patients were affected.

2000 — Researchers demonstrate that contingency management for cocaine use disorder can have long-lasting effects and serve as a valuable role in treating addictions. Patients in this study who received vouchers for having cocaine negative urine tests were more likely to have sustained cocaine abstinence during outpatient treatment than a comparative group that received incentives regardless of urine test results.

In a study partially funded by NIDA, researchers merge technologies from the imaging and genetic fields to discover that the number of brain dopamine D2 receptors an individual has may correlate directly with the amount of euphoria experienced while taking methylphenidate, a mild stimulant.

2001 — NIDA-supported animal research shows a single exposure to cocaine induces changes in brain cells that are very similar to long-term potentiation, a process that plays an important role in associating experiences with feelings and motivations.

2002 — NIDA-supported research leads to the FDA approval of buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone, the first medications for opioid use disorder that can be prescribed in an office setting.

2006 — NIDA-supported research leads to the FDA approval of varenicline for tobacco use disorder

NIDA-supported research demonstrates that methadone is an effective means of reducing heroin use and criminal behavior among opioid-dependent individuals awaiting entry into a comprehensive methadone treatment program.

2008 — NIDA's Monitoring the Future Survey reveals an increased misuse of prescription medications and over-the-counter cough syrups among high school seniors, accounting for 8 of the top 13 drug categories reported by this group.

2009 — NIDA 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 use screening tool.

2010 — NIDA launches its first annual National Drug Facts Week (NDFW), a health observance that inspires dialogue about the science of drug use and addiction among youth. It provides an opportunity for scientists, students, educators, healthcare providers, and community partners to help advance addiction science and address youth drug and alcohol use in communities and nationwide.

2011 — The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study launches. A joint effort of NIDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, PATH is a national longitudinal study of tobacco use and how it affects the health of people in the United States

2012 — A NIDA-supported seminal study demonstrates that scaling up HIV treatment in people who inject drugs results in reductions in community-level viral load and HIV transmission.

2013 — NIDA, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and The National Cancer Institute (NCI) form the Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH (CRAN). The partnership integrates resources and expertise to advance the science and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

2014 — NIDA announces the development of an innovative National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) to monitor emerging nationwide new and emerging drug trends to help public health experts respond quickly.

2015 — NIDA-supported research leads to FDA approval of the first naloxone nasal spray.

NIDA launches the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. This study follows more than 11,800 children from ages 9-10 through adolescence into young adulthood. By integrating neuroimaging with genetics, neuropsychological, behavioral, and other health assessments, the study aims to shed light on how substance use and other experiences during adolescence affect brain development and later health outcomes such as drug use and addiction.

2016 — NIDA-supported research leads to FDA approval of a buprenorphine implant to improve treatment retention and reduce burdens associated with frequent dosing.

2017 — NIDA-supported research leads to the development of ReSET-O, the first FDA-approved smartphone app to deliver behavioral treatment for opioid use disorder. 

NIDA-supported research develops Flowlytics, a cloud-based data analysis software that allows a health care facility to track its inventory of controlled substances, such as opioids, helping to prevent drug theft (also known as drug diversion). The patented software can detect potential drug diversion incidents earlier than previous methods.

2018 — The Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Initiative® or NIH HEAL Initiative®  is launched to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. NIDA is leading HEAL-supported research aimed at preventing and treating opioid misuse and addiction.

NIDA-supported research leads to the FDA approval of lofexidine, the first non-opioid treatment for opioid withdrawal.

Researchers develop a biosensor to detect opioid receptor activation. Using this method, researchers are able to show that opioid receptors function in different cell locations depending on the type of opioid.

2019 — Researchers identify a brain receptor with anti-opioid activity, a discovery that opens the door to new way to improve opioid safety.

Through investment in its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, NIDA supports development of FDA-regulated therapeutic and diagnostic devices, mobile health and general wellness products, research tools, and health IT solutions. These include:

  • Prapela™, a hospital bassinet pad that delivers gentle, random vibrations to treat newborns who were exposed to opioids before birth. The bassinet pad helps improve newborns’ breathing and heart rate.
  • OpenBeds, a HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based platform that facilitates referrals and coordination among medical and mental health providers, social services, and substance use programs.
  • RelieVRx, the first VR-based therapeutic to receive FDA authorization for chronic lower back pain and the first to obtain a unique HCPS Level II code from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • SecondChance, which detects changes in a person’s breathing that may indicate a drug overdose or monitor other clinical indications.
  • Boulder, a digital platform that delivers comprehensive treatment for OUD.

2020 — A study partially funded by NIDA finds why some people with HIV are able to maintain suppressed viral loads for years without ART. The study is chosen as a runner-up in Science magazine’s 2020 Breakthrough of the Year.

With funding from the HEAL Initiative, NIDA's Clinical Trials Network expands, adding five new nodes across the country.

Monitoring the Future Study and Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study data show that flavored e-cigarette products particularly appeal to youth. The data informs a 2020 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy prioritizing enforcement against certain unauthorized flavored cartridge-based products.

Biobot Analytics, another SBIR grantee, pioneers the commercial application of wastewater technology to monitor the presence of drugs in communities.

The National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS), a network of 18 sentinel sites that monitors patterns of drug use across the nation, incorporates real-time surveillance and harnesses its network to collect data on substance use-related consequences of COVID-19.

2021 — With partial funding from the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, NIDA launches the HEALthy Brain and Child Development (HBCD) Study to better understand very early brain development and the effects of environmental factors such as maternal substance use during pregnancy.

A study finds that a combination of oral bupropion and injectable naltrexone reduces methamphetamine use and cravings people with methamphetamine use disorder.

SBIR-funded Spark Biomedical develops a wearable treatment technology intended for the relief of opioid withdrawal symptoms.

A meta-analysis of studies shows that medication treatment for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is associated with greater adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and HIV viral suppression.

2022 — NIDA collaborates with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies for a study that shows the expansion of telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with people staying in treatment longer and reducing their risk of medically treated overdose.

A study finds that people with opioid use disorder who were incarcerated and received a medication approved to treat opioid use disorder, known as buprenorphine, were less likely to face rearrest and reconviction after release than those who did not receive the medication. 

NIDA research contributes to a new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV for those at increased risk, including people who inject drugs.

2023 — A study under the NIH Heal Initiative shows that initiating buprenorphine treatment in the ER is safe, effective and does not trigger withdrawal in people with opioid use disorder. Clinician concern over this type of withdrawal can be a barrier to using this treatment.

Researchers pinpoint areas in the genome associated with general addiction risk, as well as the risk of specific substance use disorders – namely, alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, and opioid use disorders.

NIDA-supported research leads to FDA approval of nalmefene nasal spray, which can be used to treat fentanyl overdose.

NIDA Legislative Chronology

1966 — P.L. 89-793, the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act, provided for increased Federal efforts in the rehabilitation and treatment of addiction to narcotics (limited to opiates).

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 addiction and other drug 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 use 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 use 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 use treatment with special emphasis on people injecting drugs and at higher risk for acquiring HIV.

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 use 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 opioid addiction; 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.

2006 — P.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, 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, 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 use 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 use 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 addiction.

2016 — Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), enacted on July 22, 2016, aims to address the national epidemic of opioid overdose by creating and expanding federal grant programs to include, but not limited to: expanding access to opioid overdose reversal drugs, by supporting the purchase and distribution of such medications and training for first responders; increasing awareness and educating the public regarding the misuse of prescription opioids; reauthorizing the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting (NASPER) Act, which provides grants to states to support and improve interoperability of PDMPs; and establishing an HHS-led task force to consolidate federal best practices for pain management.

21St Century Cures Act was signed into law on December 13, 2016. The legislation provides NIH with critical tools and resources to advance biomedical research across the scientific spectrum, from foundational basic research studies to advanced clinical trials of promising new therapies. Importantly, the Cures Act provides NIH with improved flexibility and resources needed to accomplish its mission to improve the health of Americans. Most notably, the Cures Act implements measures to: alleviate administrative burdens that can prolong the start of clinical trials; improve privacy protections for research volunteers; encourage inclusion of diverse populations represented in clinical research; and open up new NIH funding opportunities for young investigator.

2018 — The “Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act of 2018 (the SUPPORT Act),” became law on October 24, 2018. The legislation included provisions to strengthen the behavioral health workforce through increasing addiction medicine education; standardizing the delivery of addiction medicine; expanding access to high-quality, evidence-based care; and increasing coverage of addiction medicine services in a way that facilitates the delivery of coordinated and comprehensive treatment.

2022 — The Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act and The Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, were signed into law on December 29, 2022. The MAT Act allows any clinician registered to prescribe Schedule III substances the ability to treat opioid use disorder patients with the effective medication buprenorphine, without requiring the additional reporting steps—previously known as the X-waiver—that had been a barrier to provision of this care. The MATE Act requires physicians, including residents and fellows, and other health care professionals who prescribe controlled substances, to complete a one-time-only eight hours of training on the treatment and management of patients with opioid or other substance use disorders.

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

Dr. Nora Volkow, NIDA Director

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., is Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health. NIDA is the world’s largest funder of scientific research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction.

Dr. Volkow's work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a brain disorder. As a research psychiatrist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate how substance use affects brain functions. In particular, her studies have documented how changes in the dopamine system affect the functions of brain regions involved with reward and self-control in addiction. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, ADHD, and aging. 

Dr. Volkow was born in Mexico and earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she received the Robins Award for best medical student of her generation. Her psychiatric residency was at New York University, where she earned a Laughlin Fellowship from The American College of Psychiatrists as one of 10 outstanding psychiatric residents in the United States.

Much of her professional career was spent at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, where she held several leadership positions including Director of Nuclear Medicine, Chairman of the Medical Department, and Associate Laboratory Director for Life Sciences. Dr. Volkow was also a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Associate Dean of the Medical School at The State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Dr. Volkow has published almost a thousand peer-reviewed articles, written 113 book chapters, manuscripts and articles, co-edited "Neuroscience in the 21st Century" and edited four books on neuroscience and brain imaging for mental and substance use disorders.

She received a Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service, was a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) finalist and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the Association of American Physicians. Dr. Volkow received the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science; was awarded the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences from Carnegie Mellon University; and was inducted into the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) Hall of Fame. She was named one of Time magazine's "Top 100 People Who Shape Our World"; one of "20 People to Watch" by Newsweek magazine; Washingtonian magazine’s "100 Most Powerful Women"; "Innovator of the Year" by U.S. News & World Report; and one of "34 Leaders Who Are Changing Health Care" by Fortune magazine.

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


NIDA’s organizational structure comprises the Office of the NIDA Director, the Office of Management, the Office of Science Policy and Communications, the Intramural Research Program, the Division of Extramural Research, and three extramural funding divisions: the Division of Neuroscience and Behavior; the Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences; and the Division of Epidemiology, Services and Prevention Research. NIDA is also home to the Center for Clinical Trials Network, which manages the National Drug Abuse Treatment Clinical Trials Network; the Office of Translational Initiatives and Program Innovations, which provides leadership to speed the translation of research discoveries into health applications; and the HIV Research Program, which is responsible for developing, planning, and coordinating high-priority research at the intersection of HIV, substance use, and SUDs. Through a wide range of programs, workshops, and funding mechanisms, the Office of Research Training, Diversity, and Disparities supports researchers at multiple stages of their careers, aims to enhance the diversity of the addiction science workforce, and promotes research to address health inequities.

Through grants and contracts awarded to investigators at research institutions around the country and overseas, as well as through its Intramural Research Program, NIDA addresses the most fundamental and essential questions about substance use. This includes detecting and responding to emerging substance use trends, understanding how drugs work in the brain and body, identifying social determinants of substance use risk and SUDs, and developing and testing new approaches to prevention, treatment, and recovery.

Learn more about NIDA Research Programs and Activities.

This page last reviewed on March 6, 2024