Research Highlights

Research News
Monday, March 19, 2018
What: Roughly a third of recent high school graduates have ridden in a motor vehicle with a substance-impaired driver, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions. The study found that during the first two years after high school graduation, 23 percent of young adults had ridden with a marijuana-impaired driver at least once, while 20 percent had ridden with an alcohol-impaired driver, and 6 percent had ridden with a driver impaired by glue or solvents or harder, illicit drugs, such as amphetamines, opioids, cocaine.
The analysis was conducted by researchers at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD); Colorado State University, Fort Collins; the Colorado School of Public Health, Denver; and Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Their results appear in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
The authors analyzed data from NICHD’s NEXT Generation Health Study, a seven-year study of more than 2,700 U.S. adolescents starting at grade 10. Its goal is to identify the social, behavioral and genetic factors linked to health and healthy behaviors. Along with NICHD, funding for the NEXT Generation Health Study was provided by NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration.
The authors noted that having ridden with an impaired driver in the past was linked to a higher risk of driving while impaired and of riding with an impaired driver in the future. Other factors that increased the risk for riding with an impaired driver were living alone and not attending a four-year college. For young adults in the study who attended a four-year college, living on campus increased their risk of riding with an impaired driver.
The authors called for enhancements to informational programs that educate young people on the risks of riding with impaired drivers.
Li, K. et al. Emerging adults riding with marijuana, alcohol, or illicit drug-impaired peer and older drivers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 79(2), 277-286. doi:10.15288/jsad.2018.79.277.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Read the full NIH news release at 
Research News
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
The purpose of this workshop is to address challenges related to clinical trial designs and drug development in Alcoholic Associated Liver Disease (AALD) and Alcoholic Hepatitis (AH) including populations to study, endpoints, and diagnostic criteria.  For additional details visit
Alcoholic Hepatitis Workshop FDA, NIAAA, AASLD Clinical Trial Endpoints for AH

             Link for watching the workshop remotely:

Date: March 26-27, 2018
Location: Food and Drug Administration Great Room – White Oak Campus 10903 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD
Registration Information: 


Logistics Contact:
Bridgette Green, NIAAA



• Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
• National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
• American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD)
• American College of Gastroenterology (ACG)
• American Gastroenterological Association (AGA)




Research News
Thursday, February 15, 2018

An NIAAA study shows that people who drink socially and have certain risk factors for alcohol use disorder (AUD) self-administer more alcohol and at a faster rate during a single laboratory session of alcohol consumption than people at low risk for developing AUD. Participants with all three risk factors evaluated in this study—being male, having a family history of AUD, and having higher impulsivity behaviors—had the highest rates of binge drinking. The findings suggest that people at risk for AUD have different drinking patterns than those at low risk.

The study, led by senior author Vijay Ramchandani, Ph.D., Chief of NIAAA’s Section on Human Psychopharmacology, and co-first authors Joshua Gowin, Ph.D., and Matthew Sloan, M.D., Postdoctoral Fellows in the Section, was published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

NIAAA defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks men—in about 2 hours. Binge drinking may be an early indicator for risk of developing AUD. Examining drinking behavior during individual drinking sessions may provide more clues for identifying individuals at risk for AUD.

To determine whether the examined AUD risk factors can predict the rate of binge drinking, 159 social drinkers between the ages of 21 and 45 completed assessments about family history of problem drinking, behavioral impulsivity, and level of response to alcohol. They then participated in a laboratory session in which they self-administered alcohol intravenously to mimic a typical drinking session with friends. The participants’ BACs were continuously estimated by computer and confirmed by breathalyzer every 15 minutes.

Participants who were identified as being at a higher risk for AUD administered alcohol faster, reaching binge-like BACs more quickly than those at a lower risk for developing AUD. Having a family history of AUD was most strongly associated with a faster rate of binge drinking. Participants with all three risk factors had the fastest rates of intravenous alcohol administration—five times faster—during a session, compared to the lowest risk group. Although more research is needed, the results suggest that, as part of a clinical exam, assessing binge drinking during individual drinking sessions may help identify individuals in need of early intervention.



Gowin, J.L.; Sloan, M.E.; Stangl, B.L.; Vatsalya, V.; and Ramchandani, V.A. Vulnerability for alcohol use disorder and rate of alcohol consumption. The American Journal of Psychiatry 174(11):1094–1101, 2017. PMID: 28774194


--This article first appeared in the NIAAA Spectrum, Vol. 10 Issue 1, Winter 2018.




Research News
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

More than 7,500 children recruited for study to date; data available for first 4,500

The National Institutes of Health today released to the scientific community an unparalleled dataset from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. To date, more than 7,500 youth and their families have been recruited for the study, well over half the participant goal.  Approximately 30 terabytes of data (about three times the size of the Library of Congress collection), obtained from the first 4,500 participants, will be available to scientists worldwide to conduct research on the many factors that influence brain, cognitive, social, and emotional development. The ABCD study is the largest long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States. MRI of adolescent brains activated during a memory task in ABCD study. Source Dr. Richard Watts

This interim release provides high-quality baseline data on a large sample of 9-10-year-old children, including basic participant demographics, assessments of physical and mental health, substance use, culture and environment, neurocognition, tabulated structural and functional neuroimaging data, and minimally processed brain images, as well as biological data such as pubertal hormone analyses. The data will be made available through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Data Archive, which can be accessed by researchers who obtain a free NIMH Data Archive account. All personally identifiable information is removed from the data to ensure participant confidentiality and anonymity.

"By sharing this interim baseline dataset with researchers now, the ABCD study is enabling scientists to begin analyzing and publishing novel research on the developing adolescent brain," said Nora D. Volkow, M.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). "As expected, drug use is minimal among this young cohort, which is critical because it will allow us to compare brain images before and after substance use begins within individuals who start using, providing needed insight into how experimentation with drugs, alcohol and nicotine affect developing brains." 

"Sharing ABCD data and other related datasets with the research community, in an infrastructure that allows easy query, data access, and cloud computation, will help us understand many aspects of health and human development." said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. "These datasets provide extraordinary opportunities for computational neuroscientists to address problems with direct public health relevance."

This comprehensive dataset, which will be disaggregated by sex, racial/ethnic group, and socioeconomic status, will allow researchers to address numerous questions related to adolescent brain development to help inform future prevention and treatment efforts, public health strategies and policy decisions, including, but not limited to:

  • How do sports injuries impact developmental outcomes?

  • What is the relationship between screen time and brain and social development?

  • How does the occasional versus regular use of substances (e.g., alcohol, nicotine, marijuana) affect learning and the developing brain?

  • What are some of the factors that contribute to achievement gaps?

  • How do sleep, nutrition, and physical activity affect learning, brain development and other health outcomes across racial/ethnic and socioeconomic groups?

  • What brain pathways are associated with the onset and progression of mental health disorders and do these pathways differ by sex?

  • What is the relationship between substance use and mental illness?  

  • How do genetic and environmental factors contribute to brain development?

"The collection and release of this baseline data is a crucial step in ongoing efforts to sharpen our understanding of the link between adolescent alcohol use and long-term harmful effects on brain development and function," said George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Recruitment of participants began in September 2016 through outreach to public, charter, and private schools, as well as twin registries in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri and Virginia. The ABCD Study is designed to include a diverse population that reflects the demographics of the U.S., however these interim data may not fully capture that diversity as enrollment is not yet complete. So far, 7,637 youth have been enrolled, including 6,399 single participants and 1,238 twins/multiples, reaching a 66 percent recruitment milestone. The study aims to enroll a total of 11,500 children by the end of 2018. The next annual data release will include the full participant cohort.

Participants will be followed for 10 years, during which data are collected on a semi-annual and annual basis through interviews and behavioral testing. Neuroimaging data, including high resolution MRI, are collected every two years to measure changes in brain structure and function.

The ABCD Coordinating Center. and Data Analysis and Informatics Center are housed at the University of California, San Diego and recruitment is being conducted at 21 study sites across the country. For more information, please visit the ABCD website at

The ABCD study is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Cancer Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the Division of School Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with additional partnerships with the National Institute of Justice, the CDC Division of Violence Prevention, the National Science Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Read the full news release at



Research News
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

NIAAA seeks volunteers for a research study on alcohol use disorder aimed at reducing craving for alcohol.

Hormones are naturally occurring chemicals in the body. Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates appetite. It may also stimulate alcohol cravings and use. Researchers want to learn more about alcohol cravings and test if a drug that blocks ghrelin lowers alcohol cravings.  

Learn more at


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