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Medical News & Perspectives
March 7, 2001

Talking With Alan I. Leshner, PhD, National Institute on Drug Abuse Director

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JAMA. 2001;285(9):1141-1143. doi:10.1001/jama.285.9.1141

Bethesda, Md—Since Alan I. Leshner, PhD, took the helm of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1994, the agency's annual budget has nearly doubled, to $781 million, supporting much of the world's research on the biology of addiction, genetic and environmental risk factors, and addiction prevention and treatment.

Of the two dozen institutes that comprise the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIDA is in a unique position. Addiction is, arguably, more politicized than any other medical issue, putting Leshner and his views under a spotlight. He is quoted almost weekly in major newspaper and magazine articles as the authority on the subject. Such visibility comes with a price, though, as Leshner has been attacked on all fronts—for being both too soft and too harsh on drug issues.