Sen. Biden: "Addiction is a Preventable, Treatable Disease"

Press Release

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: March 29, 2007
Location: Washington, DC


Sen. Biden: "Addiction is a Preventable, Treatable Disease"

U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs has introduced legislation to recognize addiction as a preventable and treatable neurobiological disease, and to better identify the roles and missions of our research institutes. Sen. Biden's legislation (S. 1011) will change the name of National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to National Institute on Diseases of Addiction, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to the National Institute on Alcohol Disorders and Health.

"Addiction is a neurobiological disease - not a lifestyle choice - and it's about time we start treating it as such," said Sen. Biden. "We must lead by example and change the names of our Federal research institutes to accurately reflect this reality. By changing the way we talk about addiction, we change the way people think about addiction, both of which are critical steps in getting past the social stigma too often associated with the disease."

NIDA Name Change :

Sen. Biden's legislation changes the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the National Institute on Diseases of Addiction.

The change has a dual purpose. First, it removes the pejorative term "abuse" from the Institute's name and properly helps to distance that notion from the disease of addiction. Second, the new name more clearly links the concepts of addiction and disease, a connection that scientific study clearly supports. Identifying addiction as a neurobiological disease will diminish the social stigma, discrimination, and personal shame that is often a barrier to seeking treatment, and it will further a common understanding of diseases of addiction. Despite the name change, NIDA's mission will remain the same. Like the NIAAA, the NIDA was made an institute at the National Institutes of Health in 1992 and it will continue bringing the power of science to bear on drug use and addiction. It will also continue to pursue cutting-edge research aimed at improving our national health and well-being by reducing the profound burden of drug use and addiction on individuals and society as a whole. In addition, NIDA will continue to emphasize addiction as a preventable and treatable disease, working to remove the stigma associated with addiction and to underscore that diseases of addiction are critical national health issues.

NIAAA Name Change:

Senator Biden's legislation also changes the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to the National Institute on Alcohol Disorders and Health. The previous name is a vestige of the Institute's inception as a component of the former Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration. At that time, almost all of the NIAAA's responsibilities were to provide alcohol treatment and prevention services.

In the intervening years, Congress passed laws that strengthened NIAAA's research responsibilities and transferred its non-research programs elsewhere. NIAAA conducts and supports biomedical and behavioral research with respect to the health, social, and economic consequences of alcohol use. It also researches the prevention of alcohol abuse and the treatment of alcoholism by, for example, performing genetic studies and furthering medications development. The Institute's research also focuses on the beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption for some people as well as the negative effects of excessive alcohol use and alcoholism. Finally, we now have data indicating that excessive alcohol use and alcohol dependence (alcoholism) are not separate diagnostic categories, but exist along a single continuum of alcohol-disorders associated with increased frequency of a harmful drinking pattern.

Numerous addiction organizations support the name changes and both institutes at the National Institutes of Health feel strongly that the modifications are important. Indeed, the facts are self evident. The 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that addiction affects 23.2 million Americans in our country, of whom only 10 percent are receiving the treatment they need. Many are deterred even from seeking such treatment, partly because of the social stigma associated with admitting to a drug or alcohol dependency.

Senators Kennedy and Enzi, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, respectively, are cosponsors of the bill.

"This bill is a small but important step towards stripping away the social stigma surrounding the treatment of diseases of addiction," said Sen. Biden.