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Head of National Institute on Drug Abuse to Speak about Opioid Epidemic

Nora Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), will speak about the opioid epidemic in America at Wake Forest School of Medicine, which is part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, at noon on Monday, April 10.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the atrium of Wake Forest Biotech Place on Patterson Avenue in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Opioid misuse is an urgent public health problem throughout the United States. In North Carolina, it is particularly acute in the Piedmont and mountain regions, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. While heroin use is a major problem in the state, abuse of prescription opioids is responsible for the greatest number of overdose deaths. In addition to overdose, opioid abuse is associated with potentially life-threatening infections resulting from injection, including hepatitis C and HIV.

Volkow’s talk is the inaugural address of the School of Medicine’s Center for Research on Substance Use and Addiction. The new center brings together basic scientists, clinical researchers and population scientists who are conducting leading-edge research into substance abuse and addiction.

Volkow’s research has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, she pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Volkow’s studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting the functions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive and pleasure in addiction. She also has made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and aging. 

Volkow has served as director of NIDA since 2003. NIDA, one of 27 institutes and centers that make up the National Institutes of Health, supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction.

The Center for Research on Substance Use and Addiction draws on the expertise of the medical school’s Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction Treatment, which is funded by NIDA, and the Center on Translational Studies on Early Life Stress and Vulnerability to Alcohol Addiction, which is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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