Date: Nov. 20, 1997
Contacts: Dan Quinn, Media Relations Officer
David Schneier, Media Relations Assistant
(202) 334-2138; e-mail <>


Publication Announcement

Public Stigma Hinders Research in Addiction

In recent years, researchers have identified the parts of the brain that are affected by drugs that are often abused, and now are working to pinpoint the exact mechanisms by which drugs such as cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine alter the brain and human behavior. In addition to improving substance abuse treatment and prevention, such research eventually could improve understanding of other psychiatric conditions and neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease.

Despite dramatic breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of substance abuse, inadequate public understanding of the field threatens to stifle future progress in developing effective prevention and treatment techniques, according to a new report from a committee of the Institute of Medicine. The report calls for new ways to increase public awareness that addiction is treatable and preventable. It outlines steps designed to spur interest in addiction research and to encourage support for careers in the field.

In U.S. medical schools, less than 1 percent of the curriculum is devoted to drug abuse and addiction, and young investigators do not receive the support they need to pursue careers in addiction research, the report says. To address these shortcomings, accreditation organizations should evaluate medical school curricula for the adequacy of drug addiction courses, and should require that students receiving a medical degree display knowledge of the mechanisms of addiction and treatments. Medical schools, professional societies, and federal funders of research should bolster their commitment to young investigators through increased grant support and a greater emphasis on mentoring.

The science of addiction should be included in educational curriculum at all levels, the report says. The U.S. Department of Education should provide incentives for elementary, middle, and high schools to increase their emphases on the physiological and psychosocial aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

A committee roster follows. The study was supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles. The Institute of Medicine is a private non-profit organization that provides health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to the National Academy of Sciences.

Copies of Dispelling the Myths About Addiction are available from the National Academy Press for $39.95 (prepaid) plus shipping charges of $4.00 for the first copy and $.50 for each additional copy; tel. (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Health
Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Committee to Identify Strategies to Raise the Profile of
Substance Abuse and Alcoholism Research