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Advisory Group Recommends New Addictions Institute Replace NIAAA, NIDA

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National Institutes of Health An expert working group recommended on Sept. 15 to replace the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) with a new Institute on Addictions within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to an email sent to NIAAA liaison representatives.

The Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction (SUAA) Working Group was created in 2009 by the Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) to advise it on whether NIH should be reorganized to maximize its work on addictions. The question of whether NIH should combine NIAAA and NIDA — both founded in the early 1970s — has been a topic of debate for several decades.

The SUAA Working Group said in its report (PDF) that although its members agreed unanimously that the current NIH structure was not effective, they disagreed on how to address the problem.

After numerous meetings and gathering public input, the working group recommended two options for consideration: ?(1) a single institute focused on addiction, in which all NIH addiction-related research would be relocated, or (2) a trans-NIH addiction program (like the Neuroscience Blueprint) with participation from all institutes and centers that fund addiction-related research.?

In other words, the first option was a structural merger of NIAAA, NIDA, and other addiction research portfolios located in other NIH centers. The second proposed option was a functional one, designed to support interdisciplinary work on addictions without changing the NIH?s organizational structure. Interestingly, the SUAA Working Group?s report noted that a NIDA advisory council had voted unanimously for the first option, while a NIAAA advisory council voted unanimously for the second option.

The SUAA Working Group presented the options to the full SMRB at a meeting in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 14-15. Members voted to recommend creating a single Institute on Addictions. The meeting agenda and the report of the SUAA Working Group can be found on the SMRB website. The meeting was webcast while it was underway; if it is archived, it will be posted with other NIH webcasts.

What happens next? NIH director Dr. Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. has to decide whether to accept the recommendations of the SMRB. If he does, the actual structure of the new institute would need to be hammered out.

Then the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, of which NIH is a part, would need to sign off on the new institute, followed by a six-month review period for Congressional ?notification? and public comment.

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