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Pathways of Addiction: Opportunities in Drug Abuse Research
their careers. Compared with other fields of research, investigators in drug abuse are often paid less, have less prestige among their peers, and must contend with the unique complexities of performing research in this area (e.g., regulations on controlled substances) (see IOM, 1995). The overall result is an insufficient number of basic and clinical researchers. IOM has recently begun a study, funded by the W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles, to develop strategies to raise the status of drug abuse research.5
Weak public support for this field of study is evident in unstable federal funding (see above), a lack of pharmaceutical industry investment in the development of antiaddiction medications (IOM, 1995), and inadequate funding for research training (IOM, 1995). NIDA's FY 1994 training budget, which is crucial to the flow of young researchers into the field, was about 2 percent of its extramural research budget, a percentage substantially lower than the overall National Institutes of Health (NIH) training budget, which averages 4.8 percent of its extramural research budget.
Beyond funding problems, investigators face a host of barriers to research: research subjects may pose health risks (e.g., TB, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases), may be noncompliant, may deny their drug abuse problems, and may be involved in the criminal justice system. Even when research is successful and points to improvements in service delivery, the positive outcome may not be translated into practice or policy. For example, more than a year after the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) approval of levo-alpha-acetylmethadol (LAAM) as the first new medication for the treatment of opiate dependence in over 20 years, fewer than 1,000 patients nationwide actually had received the medication (IOM, 1995). More recently, scientific evidence regarding the beneficial effects of needle exchange programs (NRC, 1995) has received inadequate attention. Continuing indifference to scientific progress in drug abuse research inevitably depresses the status of the field, leading in turn to difficulties in recruiting new investigators.
Increasing Interdisciplinary Research
The breadth of expertise needed in drug abuse research spans many disciplines, including the behavioral sciences, pharmacology, medicine, and the neurosciences, and many fields of inquiry, including etiology, epidemiology, prevention, treatment, and health services research. Aspects of research relating to drug use tend to draw on developmental perspectives and to focus on general population samples in community settings, especially schools. Aspects of research relating to abuse and de-
The report on raising the profile of drug abuse will be published in the Fall of 1996.