The Genetics of Drug Abuse and Addiction

A Congressional Briefing Sponsored by The Friends OF NIDA
In conjunction with The Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On April 8, Science GRO staff, in conjunction with the Addiction, Treatment and Recovery Caucus in the House of Representatives, organized the tenth Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) congressional briefing, titled “The Genetics of Drug Abuse and Addiction.” Research has shown that the causes of drug abuse and addiction are complex, with genetic, environmental, and developmental factors all contributing. Genetics accounts for approximately half of an individual’s vulnerability to addiction, including how genes interact with the environment and stage of development. Thanks to recent scientific advances, we are now poised to further untangle these factors and to use that knowledge to better tailor prevention and treatment strategies. In fact, NIDA is supporting research to define and measure aspects of the social environment to understand how genes may mitigate or amplify social influences, known to powerfully affect individual choices and behaviors related to substance abuse.

Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director of NIDA, began the briefing by summarizing the Institute’s genetics research portfolio as it relates to addiction and drug abuse. APA member Caryn Lerman, PhD, Mary W. Calkins Professor and Director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, then discussed emerging research on the role of genetic influences in smoking cessation and response to treatments for nicotine addiction. Finally, Alexandra E. Shields, PhD, Director of the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities at the Institute for Health Policy at Mass. General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, addressed challenges translating emerging pharmacogenetic approaches to smoking cessation treatment to clinical practice.

The event was cosponsored by 26 Friends of NIDA scientific and professional organizations and was well-attended by congressional staff. The briefing series, which began in 2005, was designed to educate members of Congress and their staff about substance abuse issues and elevate the profile of the NIDA with policy makers. For more information on the coalition, please email Christine Jamieson.

Dr. Volkow's presentation [PDF]

Dr. Lerman's presentation [PDF]

Dr. Shield's presentation [PDF]

Pictures from the briefing:

Nora D. Volkow, MD; Caryn Lerman, PhD; and Alexandra E. Shields, PhD

Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director of NIDA; Caryn Lerman, PhD, Mary W. Calkins Professor and Director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania; and Alexandra E. Shields, PhD, Director of the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities at the Institute for Health Policy at Mass. General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Caryn Lerman, PhD

Dr. Lerman discusses emerging research on the role of genetic influences in smoking cessation and response to treatments for nicotine addiction.
Caryn Lerman, PhD

Dr. Lerman's presentation continues.
Caryn Lerman, PhD; and Alexandra E. Shields, PhD

Drs. Lerman and Shields answer questions from the audience following their presentations.