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 at or by calling 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