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News from the National Academies
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
        Nancy C. Andreasen * (chair)
        Andrew H. Woods Professor of Psychiatry and
        Director, Mental Health Clinical Research Center
        University of Iowa, Iowa City

        Stanley J. Watson Jr. * (vice chair)
        Co-director and Research Scientist, Mental Health Research Institute; and Professor and Associate Chair for Research
        Department of Psychiatry
        School of Medicine
        University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

        Michael Byas-Smith
        Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
        Emory Anesthesiology Administration

        Marc G. Caron
        Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and Professor, Department of Cell Biology
        Duke University Medical Center
        Durham, N.C.

        Brian M. Cox
        Professor and Chairman
        Department of Pharmacology
        Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences
        Bethesda, Md.

        Sharon M. Hall
        Professor and Vice Chair
        Department of Psychiatry
        School of Medicine
        University of California, San Francisco

        John Grabowski
        Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
        University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston

        Steven E. Hyman
        National Institute of Mental Health
        Rockville, Md.

        Ting-Kai Li
        Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry
        School of Medicine
        Indiana University, Indianapolis

        Herbert W. Nickens
        Vice President for Community and Minority Programs
        Association of American Medical Colleges
        Washington, D.C.

        Dorothy P. Rice *
        Professor Emeritus
        Institute for Health and Aging
        University of California, San Francisco

        Sally Satel
        Research Psychiatrist
        School of Medicine
        Yale University
        Washington, D.C.

        William K. Schmidt
        President and CEO
        NorthStar Research and Development Ltd.
        Newark, Del.

        Richard W. Tsien *
        George D. Smith Professor and Chairman
        Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology
        School of Medicine
        Stanford University
        Stanford, Calif.

        Judith R. Walters
        Neurophysiological Pharmacology Section
        Experimental Therapeutics Branch
        National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
        Bethesda, Md.

        Stephen M. Weiss
        Professor and Co-director
        Division of Behavioral Medicine and Consultation Psychiatry
        School of Medicine
        University of Miami


        Constance M. Pechura
        Director, Division of Neuroscience and Behavioral Health

        Lauren B. Leveton
        Study Director until September 1996

        Michael A. Stoto
        Director, Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention until December 1996

        (*) Member, Institute of Medicine