Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of drug addiction, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem. Dr. Nora Volkow talks about addiction as a developmental disorder that usually begins in childhood and adolescence, during which critical brain areas are still under development. She discusses how drugs can impact the developing brain and body, how comorbid drug abuse and mental illnesses can further exacerbate the problem, and the importance of preventing children from starting drug use.
Nora Volkow, MD, is the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Volkow's work has been instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain. As a research psychiatrist and scientist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the toxic effects and addictive properties of abusable drugs. Her studies have documented changes in the dopamine system affecting, among others, the functions of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, drive, and pleasure in addiction. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, ADHD, and aging.
Dr. Volkow was born in Mexico, attended the Modern American School, and earned her medical degree from the National University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she received the Robins award for best medical student of her generation. Her psychiatric residency was at New York University, where she earned the Laughlin Fellowship Award as one of the 10 Outstanding Psychiatric Residents in the USA.
Dr. Volkow spent most of her professional career at the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton, New York, where she held several leadership positions including Director of Nuclear Medicine, Chairman of the Medical Department, and associate Director for Life Sciences.
Dr. Volkow has published more than 530 peer-reviewed articles and written more than 80 book chapters and non-peer reviewed manuscripts, and has also edited three books on neuroimaging for mental and addictive disorders.
During her professional career, Dr. Volkow has been the recipient of multiple awards, including her selection for membership in the Institute of Medicine in the National Academy of Sciences and the International Prize from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research for her pioneering work in brain imaging and addiction science. She was recently named one of Time Magazine's "Top 100 People Who Shape our World" and was included as one of the 20 people to watch by Newsweek magazine in its "Who's Next in 2007" feature. She was also included in Washingtonian Magazine's 2009 list of the "100 Most Powerful Women" and named "Innovator of the Year" by U.S. News & World Report in 2000.
The mission of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is to lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction. This charge has two critical components. The first is the strategic support and conduct of research across a broad range of disciplines. The second is ensuring the rapid and effective dissemination and use of the results of that research to significantly improve prevention and treatment and to inform policy as it relates to drug abuse and addiction.