Dr. Robert Balster Receives
Nathan B. Eddy Award from CPDD.
In June 2009, Robert Balster, Butler Professor of Pharmacology and
Toxicology, Director of the Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies and
Research Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry
received the Nathan B. Eddy Award from the College on Problems of Drug
Dependence. The Award was given in Reno, Nevada at the annual scientific
meeting of the CPDD. The Nathan B. Eddy Award is given once each year to
honor lifetime contributions to drug abuse research. Dr. Balster was
honored for his contributions to basic laboratory research in behavioral
pharmacology, for his history of mentoring junior scientists and for his
service to the field of addiction research.
Dr. Balster played a key role in the development of two widely used
animal models for addictive behavior. The first is the drug
discrimination procedure, where in 1968 he published the first study
using operant behavior of animals to demonstrate discrimination of drug
effects. This method has now been used in over 4,000 scientific
publications worldwide as indexed in the Drug Discrimination Database.
This is a model for the subjective experience of drug administration
which has been used by Dr. Balster and many others to study the neural
basis for drug intoxication. Dr. Balster was also among the pioneers in
the use of intravenous drug self-administration procedures, a model in
which animals voluntarily give themselves injection of drugs of abuse.
This laboratory model for drug taking behavior is the cornerstone of
behavioral pharmacology research in drug abuse. In addition, both drug
discrimination and drug self-administration methods have been used
widely for predicting the abuse potential of potential medications
during their development, an area in which Dr. Balster is also an
expert. Dr. Balster has applied these research approaches, and many
others, to the study of two important classes of drugs of abuse,
phencyclidine/ketamine-like drugs and abused inhalants. His work on
these drugs have led to a better understanding of the nature of their
behavioral effects, tolerance, dependence, and the brain mechanisms
which are responsible for their abuse-related effects. In total, Dr.
Balster has published over 300 scientific journal publications and book
chapters, edited two books and two special issues of journals.
Dr. Balster is a well-regarded teacher and mentor. He has educated a
great many pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellows who have gone on to
become independent scientists and who have made very significant
contributions in their own laboratories. Dr. Balster was the first
person to receive the coveted Mentor Award from CPDD and later the NIDA
International Award for Excellence in Mentoring. He also regularly
receives teaching awards from students at VCU. He is the Co-Founder and
Co-Director of the International Programme in Addiction Studies, an
online Master’s Degree program given by VCU, King’s College London and
the University of Adelaide. He is the VCU Coordinator for the Hubert H.
Humphrey Fellowship Program in Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and
Policy, a U.S. State Department Fulbright Program bringing mid-career
professionals from lower and middle income countries to the U.S. for a
year of study and research.
In 1997, Dr. Balster founded the VCU Institute for Drug and Alcohol
Studies, for which he now serves as Director. This Institute has grown
to over 45 faculty who conduct a broad range of research and training
programs. These faculty attract over $20 million annually in grants and
contracts. In addition to his leadership role with the Institute, Dr.
Balster is also the Editor-in-Chief of one of the world’s leading
addiction specialty journals, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, a position he
has held since 1998. He also served as a member of the Robert Wood
Johnson Research Network on the Etiology of Tobacco Dependence, and,
with Randy Koch, co-directs the Virginia Youth Tobacco Project, a
statewide coalition of tobacco researchers. He has a long history of
leadership in professional societies and on governmental advisory
committees. A partial list includes being President of the CPDD and the
Division of Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse of the American
Psychological Association (APA), Chair of the FDA Drug Abuse Advisory
Committee, Chair of an NIH Study Section, and a Member of the World
Health Organization Expert Panel on Drug Dependence. He has served as
Chair of the Board of Scientific Affairs of the APA and has now returned
to the Board for another term of service as a member.
Dr. Balster has already received several awards. In addition to those
already mentioned, he received the Brady-Schuster Award for lifetime
contributions to behavioral pharmacology research from the Division of
Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse of the American Psychological
Association in 2007 and the 2006 Award for Distinguished Service to
Psychological Science from APA as well.
Picture: Robert Balster receives Eddy Award from Sharon Walsh, President
of CPDD, accompanied by one of his nominators, Louis Harris, who
introduced him at the ceremony.