Summer 2010 • Issue 20

 

NIAAA Celebrates 40 Years of Research, Outreach

NIAAA celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding this year with a fresh, new look and new publications that will examine the Institute’s pivotal role in alcohol-related research and outreach. The Institute also plans to host a special symposium on October 4, 2010, recognizing the anniversary. At this symposium, leaders in the field will discuss the ways in which alcohol research has evolved over the past 40 years and NIAAA’s role in this progress. More information on this symposium will be available soon on the NIAAA Web site.

Photo of 40th Anniversary Banner on NIH CampusAnniversary banners that incorporate a new logo for the Institute, boldly acknowledging its 40 years, already are on display on the main campus of NIH.

NIAAA also will devote issues of its flagship publications to the milestone. A special issue of Alcohol Research & Health (AR&H) will cast a wide net over the multidisciplinary efforts involved in alcohol research and their public health impact.

Image of 40th Anniversary LogoAn introductory article in this special issue of AR&H will define the scope of alcohol abuse and alcoholism and highlight many of the groundbreaking research approaches that the Institute has championed, such as complex trait analysis, the Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) project, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), medications development, international and cross-Institute collaborations, and others. It also will discuss NIAAA’s pioneering contributions to public outreach, communications, and clinician training.

The issue will include articles on preventing alcohol problems through health policy—such as raising the minimum drinking age, encouraging server intervention, and adding warning labels—and an examination of progress in reducing underage drinking, including the college drinking prevention and underage initiatives. The issue will review the evolution of treatment over 40 years—from primarily in-patient treatments to the full spectrum of interventions available now, such as screening and brief interventions, research-based therapies, new medications, and improved behavioral approaches.

An article on genetic research will describe efforts to define who is at risk, review the COGA project, summarize important animal model and human/twin studies, and examine complex trait analysis. Other articles will explore the potential health benefits as well as consequences of alcohol consumption, track the development of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder research, summarize how alcohol affects the brain, and describe how neuroscience research is helping to better inform treatment decisions.

This issue of AR&H will wrap up with a piece on alcohol and health disparities—that is, how alcohol affects people differently depending on factors such as gender, age, race, and ethnicity.

Further commemorating the anniversary, an Alcohol Alert will outline NIAAA’s beginnings with the Hughes Act of 1970; its subsequent growth and establishment as an independent Institute in 1974; and highlights of its history, such as the first Fetal Alcohol Syndrome workshop, passage of the minimum legal drinking age laws, and the launch of NESARC.

In 40 years, NIAAA has helped the Nation evolve a more complete understanding of alcohol problems and how to prevent and treat them. The Institute has identified at-risk populations, including pregnant women and youth, and compelled the public to recognize their importance as prevention targets. It has allowed to flourish research that provides health care professionals with many perspectives on how alcohol use affects humans and how best to aim a broader cache of interventions. And it has created a landscape where investigators may pursue novel and cross-disciplinary questions that will build upon the advances in the field that NIAAA will continue to support.