Nora Volkow and the National Institute on Drug Abuse

In a recent post on marijuana (Marijuana, the Most Commonly Used Drug), I mentioned NIDA, the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Neuroscientist Nora Volkow heads this organization. Nora Volkow.jpgEvery industry or field has its leaders, and in the addiction and recovery field, she stands out.

You may have seen Nora in the HBO special on addiction a couple of years ago. (Here’s an interview with Nora on the HBO page for the documentary.)  

Joan reminded me that Nora is the great-granddaughter of Russian revolutionary/exiled Soviet politician Leon Trotsky. She was raised in Mexico City in the home where he was assassinated.

The New York Times, which also noted her lineage, called her “A General in the Drug War.” Joan mentioned she was an early proponent of the Reward Deficiency theory originated by Dr. Kennth Blum. It was Nora who pioneered the use of brain imaging to better understand how drug addiction affects the brain.

Nora is constantly quoted, as in this USA Today article. Here’s her bio, which describes her illustrious career and wide-ranging career interests. For years she has studied and educated people about dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reward-seeking and thus addiction. In May she addressed a group of drug experts about prescription pill abuse, according to The New York Times article. And she writes, too. One of her articles I found especially interesting is Physical Activity May Prevent Substance Abuse.

NIDA and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are due to be merged, and the NYT article says Volkow approves of the idea.

“…[S]he is all for the merger, calling the current structure ‘an artificial division with many missed opportunities,’ like having an institute for every particular variety of cancer. Addictions tend to move together, she said, sharing many triggers and a great deal of biology.”


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