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Friends of NIDA Briefing Focuses on Genetics of Addiction
By Anne Bettesworth
On April 8, APA Science Government Relations Office 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 contributing. Genetics account for approximately half of an individual’s vulnerability to addiction, including how genes interact with the environment and stages of development. Thanks to recent scientific advances, we are now poised to further untangle these contributing factors and 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, 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, Mary W. Calkins Professor and Director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed emerging research on the role of genetic influences in smoking cessation and response to treatments for nicotine addiction. Alexandra E. Shields, Director of the Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations and Health Disparities at the Institute for Health Policy, 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 Anne Bettesworth.