Psychologists Center Stage at NIDA Advisory Council Meeting
On September 20, the Advisory Council (AC) for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) held its 94th meeting. At the meeting, programs run by psychologists were featured prominently, and APA Fellow Dr. Cora Lee Wetherington, Women & Gender Research Coordinator in the Office of the Director, provided a very interesting and comprehensive review of NIDA's gender research portfolio. When asked what area within the broader portfolio she would prioritize if she were the NIDA Director, Wetherington stated simply that she would ask more researchers to analyze their data by gender (so please heed her request if you do not already include gender analysis on a routine basis).
Switching gears, APA member Dr. Redonna Chandler, Services Research Branch Chief in the Division of Epidemiology and Services and Prevention Research, discussed the integration of Treatment with the Criminal Justice System. NIDA's approach to dealing with drugs and crime has involved the blending of both public health and public safety approaches. Dr. Volkow praised Dr. Chandler for spearheading the development of the latest in a series of NIDA guidelines; this one titled "Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations - A Research-Based Guide". Next month, the Friends of NIDA coalition will be sending a copy of the guidelines to each Member of Congress in an effort to call attention to these cost-effective principles. The goal of distributing the guidelines and raising awareness is to ultimately increase offenders' access to much needed substance abuse treatment.
As a policy update, Dr. Raynard Kington, Deputy Director of NIH, provided an overview of the new Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Planning (OPASI). The timing of this was fortuitous because that same day the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives was debating a long-awaited reauthorization bill. One of the ambiguities in the bill was how its version of OPASI would work. Some in the behavioral science community were concerned that it might diminish the authority of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research. One such person was Council member and APA Fellow Dr. Warren Bickel, who, when selected to ask the first question following Dr. Kington's presentation, asked if the OBSSR Director (currently APA Fellow Dr. David Abrams) would still report directly to the Director of NIH. Dr. Kington made it clear that neither the current version of OPASI nor the one in the pending legislation would interfere with those reporting lines. Kudos to Dr. Bickel for putting NIH on the record on that issue.
Later in the meeting, Dr. Bickel also asked Dr. Volkow for an update on NIDA's collaboration with the FDA to reconstitute the FDA's Drug Abuse Advisory Committee. Dr. Volkow indicated that there had been no progress since the last meeting, but thanked Dr. Bickel for the reminder and pledged to re-address the situation with the FDA. APA, the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and the Friends of NIDA coalition will continue to push for a resolution to this problem, which may become easier with the recent release of an IOM report critical of the FDA's system of approving and regulating drugs.