In Brief

Former Washington Redskins football star Dexter Manley described his personal struggle with cocaine addiction at a March 15 congressional briefing about National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) research on breaking the cycle of drugs and crime.

Manley, who now works as the director of community outreach at the nonprofit drug rehabilitation program Second Genesis, went through more than $12 million and was in and out of prison twice during nearly 20 years of drug use during and after his football career.

"I let down my own family, friends and the kids who looked up to me," he said. But two years in a prison-based therapeutic community finally helped him kick the habit, he said.

More than 60 percent of people who end up in the criminal justice system abuse drugs or alcohol, said NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, who also spoke at the briefing. Finding ways to effectively treat those millions of people could go a long way toward addressing America's substance abuse problem, which is estimated to cost the country more than $486 billion per year, she added.

"I'm here to make you aware of the extraordinary opportunity we have," she said. Drug addiction is a treatable disease of the brain, Volkow explained, and NIDA research has shown that treatment works whether it's voluntary or--as in the case of court-imposed treatment--involuntary.

The challenge, she said, is to figure out how to integrate the needs and perspective of treatment programs with those of the criminal justice system, which is generally more concerned with punishing offenders and protecting society than with rehabilitating offenders.

Making these two systems fit together is one of the goals of the NIDA-funded Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies program, said briefing presenter Dwayne Simpson, PhD, a psychology professor at Texas Christian University and one of the principal investigators of the study.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) closed the briefing by thanking drug-treatment researchers for their work. Kennedy said that he has dealt with alcohol abuse in his family.

"The life I have would not be possible if I didn't have the advantages of modern medicine," he said. "That's the result of what you do and what your predecessors have done."

The briefing was organized by the Friends of NIDA, an advocacy group that includes APA.