National Institute on Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a United States federal-government research institute whose mission is to "lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction."
NIDA was established in 1974, and in October 1992 it became part of the National Institutes of Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services. The Institute is organized into divisions and offices, each of which is involved with programs of drug abuse research.
DAWN, or the Drug Abuse Warning Network, is a program to collect statistics on the frequency of emergency room mentions of use of different types of drugs. This information is widely cited by drug policy officials, who have sometimes confused drug-related episodes—emergency room visits induced by drugs—with drug mentions. The Wisconsin Department of Justice claimed, "In Wisconsin, marijuana overdose visits in emergency rooms equal to heroin or morphine [sic], twice as common as Valium." Common Sense for Drug Policy called this as a distortion, noting, "The federal DAWN report itself notes that reports of marijuana do not mean people are going to the hospital for a marijuana overdose, it only means that people going to the hospital for a drug overdose mention marijuana as a drug they use."
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health is an annual study of American drug use patterns. According to NIDA, "The data collection method is in–person interviews conducted with a sample of individuals at their place of residence. ACASI provides a highly private and confidential means of responding to questions to increase the level of honest reporting of illicit drug use and other sensitive behavior." Sixty-eight thousand people were interviewed in 2003, with a weighted response rate for interviewing of 73 percent. Like DAWN, the Survey often draws criticism because of how the data is used by drug policy officials. Rob Kampia of Marijuana Policy Project stated in a September 5, 2002 press release,
|“||The government reaches that exact same conclusion regardless of whether drug use is going up, down, or staying the same. If use is going up they say, `We're in a drug abuse emergency; we need to crack down harder.' If use is going down, they say, `Our strategy is working; we need to crack down harder.' A cynic might think they had made up their minds before even looking at the data.||”|
NIDA literature and National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research frequently contradict each other. For instance, in the 1980s and 1990s, NIMH researchers found that dopamine plays only a marginal role in marijuana's psychoactive effects. Years later, however, NIDA educational materials continued to warn of the danger of dopamine-related marijuana addiction. NIDA appears to be backing off of these dopamine claims, adding disclaimers to its teaching packets that the interaction of THC with the reward system is not fully understood.
Medical marijuana monopoly
NIDA has a government granted monopoly on the production of medical marijuana for research purposes. In the past, the institute has refused to supply marijuana to researchers who had obtained all other necessary federal permits. Medical marijuana researchers and activists claim that NIDA, which is not supposed to be a regulatory organization, does not have the authority to effectively regulate who does and doesn't get to do research with medical marijuana. Jag Davies of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) writes in MAPS Bulletin:
|“||Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has a monopoly on the supply of research-grade marijuana, but no other Schedule I drug, that can be used in FDA-approved research. NIDA uses its monopoly power to obstruct research that conflicts with its vested interests. MAPS had two of its FDA-approved medical marijuana protocols rejected by NIDA, preventing the studies from taking place. MAPS has also been trying without success for almost four years to purchase 10 grams of marijuana from NIDA for research into the constituents of the vapor from marijuana vaporizers, a non-smoking drug delivery method that has already been used in one FDA-approved human study.||”|
NIDA administers a contract with the University of Mississippi to grow the nation's only licit cannabis crop for medical and research purposes, including the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. A Fast Company magazine article pointed out, "Based on the photographic evidence, NIDA's concoction of seeds, stems, and leaves more closely resembles dried cat brier than cannabis". An article in Mother Jones magazine describes their crop as "brown, stems-and-seeds-laden, low-potency pot—what's known on the streets as "schwag"" United States federal law currently registers cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Medical marijuana researchers typically prefer to use high-potency marijuana, but NIDA's National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse has been reluctant to provide cannabis with high THC levels, citing safety concerns:
|“||Most clinical studies have been conducted using cannabis cigarettes with a potency of 2-4% THC. However, it is anticipated that there will be requests for cannabis cigarettes with a higher potency or with other mixes of cannabinoids. For example, NIDA has received a request for cigarettes with an 8% potency. The subcommittee notes that very little is known about the clinical pharmacology of this higher potency. Thus, while NIDA research has provided a large body of literature related to the clinical pharmacology of cannabis, research is still needed to establish the safety of new dosage forms and new formulations.||”|
Speaking before the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, Rob Kampia of the Marijuana Policy Project criticized NIDA for refusing to provide researcher Donald Abrams with marijuana for his studies, stating that "after nine months of delay, Dr. Leshner rejected Dr. Abrams' request for marijuana, on what we believe are political grounds that the FDA-approved protocol is inadequate."
- For more details on this topic, see Retracted article on neurotoxicity of ecstasy.
NIDA continues to provide funding to George Ricaurte, who in 2002 conducted a study that was widely touted as proving that MDMA caused dopaminergic neurotoxicity in monkeys. His paper "Severe Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity in Primates After a Common Recreational Dose Regimen of MDMA ('Ecstasy')" in Science was later retracted after it became clear that the monkeys had in fact been injected not with MDMA, but with extremely high doses of methamphetamine. A FOIA request was subsequently filed by MAPS to find out more about the research and NIDA's involvement in it.
Effectiveness of anti-marijuana ad campaigns
In February 2005, Westat, a research company hired by NIDA and funded by The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, reported on its five-year study of the government ad campaigns aimed at dissuading teens from using marijuana, campaigns that cost more than $1.0 billion between 1998 and 2004. The study found that the ads did not work: "greater exposure to the campaign was associated with weaker anti-drug norms and increases in the perceptions that others use marijuana." NIDA leaders and the White House drug office did not release the Westat report for a year and a half. NIDA dated Westat's report as "delivered" in June 2006. In fact, it was delivered in February 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office, the federal watchdog agency charged with reviewing the study.
NIDA and Wikipedia
NIDA officials have edited the Wikipedia article about their organization to remove text and links critical of NIDA and add NIDA URLs and text from NIDA literature. The article history shows a single edit in late August 2006 and a number of edits during September 2006 by an anonymous editor with an IP address from within NIH. These edits have been reverted. In January 2007, NIDA spokeswoman Dorie Hightower verified that the editing was done by NIDA officials, and said it was done "to reflect the science." 
- "About NIDA". National Institute on Drug Abuse.
- "Home Page". National Institutes of Health Office of Budget.
- "Distortion 6: Emergency Room Visits". Common Sense for Drug Policy.
- "The NSDUH Report". The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). February 7 2003.
- "MPP Responds to Release of 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse". Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
- Greenberg, Gary (2005-11-01). "Respectable Reefer". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- Ricaurte, George. "Severe Dopaminergic Neurotoxicity in Primates After a Common Recreational Dose Regimen of MDMA ('Ecstasy')". Science. 297: 2260–2263.
- Earth Erowid (September 27, 2002). "A Review of a Recent Claim Of Parkinson's from "Recreational" MDMA Use". erowid.org.
- Rick Doblin, Ph.D., MAPS President. "Comments on MDMA Neurotoxicity Research in Primates: Dr. Ricaurte's July 15, 2003 Progress Report to the National Institute on Drug Abuse". MAPS.
- Ryan Grim, "A White House Drug Deal Gone Bad: Sitting on the Negative Results of a Study of Anti-Marijuna Ads", Slate magazine, September 7, 2006
- Ryan Grim. "Federal Agency Cleans Up Its Own Wikipedia Entry". The Politico.
- Granny Doc. "Feds Mess with Wikipedia Entry, Again". The Daily Kos.
- Official NIDA Site
- The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), NIDA, 7 February 2003.
- Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971, International Narcotics Control Board.
- Breen, Bill: Pipe Dream?: Rick Doblin has a prescription for fixing NIDA's ailing medical-marijuana program: establish an alternative, Issue 79, Feb. 2004.
- Drug War Distortions, Common Sense for Drug Policy.
- Gettman, Jon: Dopamine and the Dependence Liability of Marijuana, July 11 1997.
- Kampia, Rob: Testimony at the September 19 Meeting of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse, 19 September 1995.
- MPP Responds to Release of 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, Marijuana Policy Project, 5 September 2002.
- Grim, Ryan: Federal Agency Cleans Up Its Own Wikipedia Entry
- Feds Mess with Wikipedia Entry, Again Blog entry about efforts by NIH staff to remove criticism of NIDA from this page