Centers & Programs

At IDAS, we have established several centers and projects geared toward understanding the causes and consequences of substance abuse and the development and delivery of substance abuse prevention and treatment services. Research based, these centers and projects provide a training ground for new practices in treatment and scholarly advances in drug and alcohol studies.

  • Center for Drug Abuse Research

    The Center for Drug Abuse Research was established in 1988 with a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Center is housed in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and directed by Dr. William L. Dewey, who is also the department chair. For over two decades, investigators at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) have made significant contributions to our understanding of drugs of abuse. The interests of these researchers encompass drug synthesis and pharmacokinetic, neurochemical, molecular, behavioral and pharmacological characterization of most classes of abused drugs. While there have always been active collaborations among some of these investigators, the drug abuse research effort at VCU has been enhanced by the creation of the NIDA Center for Drug Abuse Research.

    The primary objective of the Center is to foster interdisciplinary research on drug abuse at VCU. The Center continues to provide a mechanism for bringing together scientists from many different disciplines who have had a role in various drug abuse grants at VCU, which include numerous R01's, NIDA contracts, a training grant and several development of young scientists awards in drug abuse research. The role of the Center’s “Core” is to provide program management and to facilitate interaction and cooperation among the participants through its administration, drug synthesis, shared instrumentation, mouse knock-out facility and oocyte laboratory. In addition, a small grants program provides a mechanism to encourage new drug abuse research by junior and senior scientists already associated with the Center.

    The Center carries out a strong program of basic research. Three projects are devoted to synthesis of nicotine analogs, pharmacological characterization of nicotine receptor subtypes, and preclinical and clinical studies on nicotine addiction. The remaining six projects address the mechanisms by which cannabinoids produce their acute transduction mechanisms that include both adenylyl cyclase and ion channels, and interactions between the opioid and cannabinoid systems. Efforts are directed toward understanding the nature of ligand-receptor interactions, signal transduction mechanisms that include both adenylyl cyclase and ion channels, and interactions between the opioid and cannabinoid systems. Finally, the roles of the endogenous nicotine and cannabinoid systems in drug dependance, pain perception, convulsions and immune function are being examined in a systematic manner.

  • Clinical Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory

    The Clinical Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory (CBPL) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is an active research facility specializing in tobacco and nicotine research with human participants in a controlled setting. Primary research areas include:

    1. Investigating potential gender differences in response to nicotine replacement medications.
    2. Developing laboratory models for evaluating potential reduced exposure products for tobacco users.
    3. Understanding the effects of tobacco use in adolescents.
    4. Examining the effects of water-pipe use in smokers in the eastern Mediterranean region.

    Other areas of research include the abuse liability of stimulants, analgesic properties of opioids and potential therapeutic effectiveness of smoked marijuana relative to oral THC.

    The CBPL consists of office space for staff and graduate students and three fully equipped clinical laboratories. Together the three laboratories account for approximately 2,500-square feet of dedicated research space. Each laboratory includes computerized equipment for measurement of subjective reports of drug/withdrawal effects, cognitive and behavioral performance, physiological response, and detailed measurement of drug self-administration. In addition, the laboratory routinely handles biological samples, and is equipped with a centrally-located refrigerated centrifuge and -70ºC freezer for sample processing and storage. A full-time registered nurse who is also a certified clinical research coordinator maintains participant safety and supervises day-to-day laboratory activities.

    The CBPL is directed by Dr. Thomas Eissenberg, Professor of Psychology, faculty member in the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies, and member scientist of the Massey Cancer Center, VCU’s NCI-sponsored comprehensive cancer center. Please click on this link to go to Dr. Eissenberg's VCU webpage http://www.people.vcu.edu/~teissenb/index.html.

  • Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment

    The Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies was selected by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State, as a new site for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program in 2006. The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, a Fulbright exchange activity, brings accomplished professionals from selected developing countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe and Eurasia to the United States at a mid-point in their careers for a year of study and related practical professional experiences. Fellows are nominated by U.S. Embassies or Fulbright Commissions based on their potential for leadership. By providing these future leaders with a shared experience of U.S. society and culture and of current U.S. approaches to the fields in which they work, the Program provides a basis for lasting ties between citizens of the United States and their professional counterparts in other countries. Thus, the Humphrey Program fosters an exchange of knowledge and mutual understanding, through which the United States joins in a significant partnership with participating countries.

    Fellowships are granted competitively to professional candidates with a commitment to public service in both the public and the private sectors in a wide range of fields, including agricultural development, communications/journalism, economic development, education, law and human rights, and natural resources and environmental management. VCU joins 17 other universities from around the country in serving as a Humphrey Campus. In keeping with its mission, the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies hosts Humphrey Fellows whose primary interest is in substance abuse prevention, treatment and policy. The Fellows participate in a variety of educational and training experiences including academic coursework, a specially designed Humphrey Seminar, conferences and workshops, cultural excursions, and a professional affiliation with a community- or university-based organization in their particular areas of interest.

    Since its inception, VCU has hosted 37 Humphrey Fellows from 30 countries, including: Albania, Arabia, Armenia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burma, Czech Republic, Egypt, Ghana, India, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Kosovo, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Panama, Russia, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, Uruguay, Romania, Saudi, Serbia, South Africa, Syria, and Venezuela.

    For additional information, please contact the Program Coordinator, Robert L. Balster, Ph.D. at balster@vcu.edu or Associate Coordinator, J. Randy Koch, Ph.D. at jrkoch@vcu.edu. For additional information about the Humphrey Fellowship Program, please visit the IIE website at http://www.humphreyfellowship.org/.

  • Mid-Atlantic Addictions Technology Transfer Center

    In 1993, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was awarded a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), to establish the Virginia Addiction Training Center. The Virginia ATC was one of 11 centers in a national network whose purpose was to expand the treatment work force by improving educational opportunities for addiction counselors. Over the course of the past 10 years its mission evolved and the national network expanded, and these changes were reflected locally. In 1995, Maryland and North Carolina were added to the Virginia ATC to become the Mid-Atlantic Addiction Technology Transfer Center (Mid-Atlantic ATTC), with West Virginia being included by 2001. The current mission of the Mid-Atlantic ATTC is to unite treatment practitioners, state and local human service agencies, criminal justice agencies, and higher education institutions across the region to improve treatment services through work force development.

    The Mid-Atlantic ATTC works to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners in state agencies, universities and community treatment programs by transferring current research to treatment application. It creates linkages to build a network of infrastructures for unifying professional leadership, creating and supporting high-standard training and education, encouraging grassroots support for the field, and enhancing the professionalization of addiction treatment.

    The ATTC promotes the highest quality of professional work in addiction treatment through the development of competency-based continuing education courses. Additionally, it supports professional conferences by assisting conference committees in program and course development, and by providing speakers, materials and logistical support. AccessED, the ATTC’s online course program, offers a number of courses for working professionals.

    The Mid-Atlantic ATTC also provides listservs, Web sites and other communication technologies to help addiction treatment practitioners and faculty stay informed. The Motivational Interviewing (MI) Web site, supported by the ATTC, informs practitioners about MI and how training can be accessed. Additionally, the ATTC supports and sponsors regional and statewide research-to-practice conferences and other educational opportunities for practitioners.

    The Mid-Atlantic ATTC serves:

    1. practicing addiction-treatment professionals
    2. students in addiction counseling, psychology, social work, criminal justice, nursing, medicine and other related fields
    3. faculty interested in enhancing or integrating an addiction treatment focus into their courses or curricula
    4. community and professional organizations
    5. higher education programs

    For more information on the Mid-Atlantic ATTC, please visit the Web site.

  • NIDA Training Program in the Pharmacology of Abused Drugs

    The National Institute on Drug Abuse training grant, housed in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, supports pre- and postdoctoral fellows in the biomedical aspects of drugs of abuse. It is the first postdoctoral training grant ever awarded by NIDA. The major emphasis of this program is on the pharmacology and mechanism of action of abused drugs. We continue to have a broad scope in our pharmacological training program, and expect that each preceptor in this program will bring their specific expertise to the benefit of each of the trainees. This is accomplished through a wide variety of course offerings, the faculty serving on thesis committees and three seminar series.

    The pre-doctoral training program is a rigorous graduate program in pharmacology. Pre-doctoral trainees have completed at least one year of graduate education before being accepted into this program, which is characterized by two years of foundational course work. Postdoctoral fellows concentrate on research throughout their training. The faculty provide guidance on research, teaching, and the professionalism of biomedical science and all aspects of becoming a productive independent researcher. This has been a hallmark of this program during the past twenty-five years and will continue to provide the atmosphere for the training of leading scholars in the drug abuse field for the future. The research projects of the fellows in this program continue to be directed toward elucidating the abuse potential, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of action, and pharmacological properties of drugs of abuse.

    The training record of this program and its preceptors is outstanding. Many of the preceptors in this program have been educating pre- and postdoctoral fellows in the field of drugs of abuse for the past twenty years. A large number of individuals who received training from these preceptors are leaders in the drug abuse field and a very impressive number have received funding from NIDA and other sources for their substance abuse-related research. We have also been able to attract faculty from within the institution to join the productive large group of scientists who have been working on this program throughout its existence. Faculty members have received considerable external funding including a mixture of ROl, program project, individual career development awards and center grants.

    The NIDA training grant is directed by Dr. William Dewey, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, and an IDAS faculty member.

  • Virginia Youth Tobacco Projects

    With funding from the Virginia Tobacco Settlement Foundation (VTSF), the Virginia Youth Tobacco Project (VYTP) was established in 2002 to facilitate multi-disciplinary research on the causes and prevention of youth tobacco use across Virginia’s major research universities. This research is intended to expand and integrate the base of scientific knowledge upon which more effective prevention programs and policies can be developed. Focusing on the multi-facetted etiology of adolescent tobacco use and on the search for solutions tailored to vulnerable individuals and groups of youth, the VFHY provides a model framework for a science-based approach to addressing a significant youth health problem.

    The Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies serves as the coordinating center for the VFHY Research Coalition which includes six of Virginia’s major research universities: College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech. Reflecting its broad base and multi-disciplinary nature, the VFHY Research Coalition now includes over 60 individual investigators in more than 30 academic departments.

    The VFHY uses its resources to achieve five major goals:

    1. Attract new faculty to work on problems of youth tobacco use,
    2. Build a statewide, coordinated research program on the causes and prevention of youth tobacco use,
    3. Create active multi-university collaborations in carrying out the VFHY research program,
    4. Use VTSF sponsorship to leverage additional funding for youth tobacco research in Virginia; and
    5. Translate research findings into improved prevention services and policies.

    In order to attain these goals, IDAS, working with the Research Coalition member universities and the VTSF, has developed and implemented an ambitious agenda. This has included targeted grant funding to support research on priority topics, a small grants program to stimulate new research and encourage participation by new investigators, a triennial research conference to disseminate findings of VTSF-funded research and facilitate the application of research in community-based prevention programs, and annual Research Coalition meetings to facilitate networking and the development of new research collaborations.

    For more information, please go to http://www.vcu.edu/idas/vytp.

  • AWHARE Program (Addiction and Women's Health: Advancing Research and Evaluation)