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A Convoluted Recent History of Federal Drug Abuse Agencies
(especially those related to NIH agencies)
by Agent Studious
1.0 Jun 2005
The following is a sketch of the history of some of the Drug Abuse Agencies in the U.S. Federal Government with particular focus on those that have been involved with NIH (the National Institutes of Health) and NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). This overview is not in chronological order due to the complicated interweaving of the many different related organizations. I pulled it together by sleuthing through a lot of federal documents that only made sense at the end when I understood the leaps in logic based on the history.

Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention (SAODAP) #
SAODAP was established by Executive Order by President Nixon in mid-1971 and was located in the Executive Office of the President (EOP). Nixon appointed Dr. Jerome Jaffe (a methadone treatment proponent) as SAODAP director, a position which became known as the "Drug Czar".

SAODAP was specifically empowered by Congress through the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act of 1972 to coordinate federal drug abuse prevention efforts. In other words, SAODAP was to focus exclusively on drug demand and its reduction, rather than on drug supply or its interdiction (interdiction was seen as more of a law-enfocement issue). However, the SAODAP director was instructed to regularly consult with the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE; a precursor to DEA) within the Department of Justice about drug supply issues.

In late 1971, SAODAP absorbed the Federal Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinating Committee (FDAPCC), which had been part of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW; precursor to Dept of Health and Human Services).

In 1972, SAODAP initiated the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) and National Household Survey on Drug Abuse epidemiological surveys to monitor drug demand and usage. SAODAP also established a national network of multi-modality drug abuse treatment programs in cooperation with the Division of Narcotic Addiction and Drug Abuse (DNADA) of NIMH, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Additionally, the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act directed that the expanded SAODAP would become an independent agency (namely, the National Institute on Drug Abuse; NIDA) by 1975. The Act directed that NIDA would function within the structure of NIMH.

When NIDA was established earlier than originally planned in 1973, the drug demand responsibilities of SAODAP and DNADA were subsumed into NIDA, within the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA) (see below). The director of SAODAP/Drug Czar (then Dr. Robert DuPont, also a methadone proponent) became the first NIDA director. In 1975, SAODAP was terminated, as designated by the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act.

As a side note, a 1976 amendment to the Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act effectively reactivated and renamed SAODAP as the Office of Drug Abuse Policy (ODAP), with an expansion of SAODAP responsibilities into drug supply issues. Presumably this occurred so that there would be an executive-level office addressing drug abuse issues. However, the office remained unstaffed by both the Ford and Carter Administrations. In response to Congress, Carter assured legislators that drug abuse issues would be handled by his Domestic Policy Staff.

Congress's hesitancy with Carter's reorganization of drug abuse policy concerns led to an extension of NIDA's budget for only one year under the Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Amendments of 1978. By 1979, though, Congress gave its stamp of approval to the Carter reorganization through the Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendments, which also included funds for education and treatment.

Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA) #
ADAMHA was founded in 1973, as part of Public Health Service (PHS)/HEW by the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act Amendments. Various drug abuse- and mental health-related functions were handled by 3 PHS agencies: NIMH, NIDA and the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

NIMH has long been involved in drug abuse issues. This lineage began with the Narcotics Division of PHS following passage of the Narcotics Farm Act of 1929. At that time, PHS was part of the Treasury Department (although it became part of HEW in 1953). In 1930, the Narcotics Division was renamed the Division of Mental Hygiene under a law that gave the head of PHS, the Surgeon General, the authority to investigate the causes, treatment, and prevention of mental and nervous diseases.

In 1949, the Division of Mental Hygiene was abolished with the establishment of NIMH as an institute of NIH. In 1967, NIMH separated from NIH to function under a new agency of PHS/HEW called the Health Services and Mental Health Administration.

Subsequently, in 1967, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (aka, the Katzenbach Commission) issued a report on the nation's crime problem that included a chapter on drug abuse. In addition to recommendations for law enforcement, the report recommended that NIMH develop a core of educational and informational materials relating to drugs.

From 1967 until the early 1970's, NIMH had authority over PHS-run "narcotics farms". These Farms were actually hospitals that treated drug-addicted federal prisoners in Lexington, KY (hospital founded in 1935, renamed the Addiction Research Center (ARC) in 1948) and Fort Worth, TX (hospital founded in 1938). Prisoners were transferred to the Farms by court order or by volunteering for drug treatment. Volunteers were allowed to leave on 24 hr notice (or for misbehavior), although there was often a revolving door of re-entry into the treatment programs.

These facilities conducted clinical research with the prisoners on the behavioral effects of abusable drugs and potential drug abuse treatments. A proto-Narcotics Anonymous was founded at the Lexington site, following the successful AA model. The scientists at the Farms also attempted (without avail) to find a pain reliever that would not have addictive properties.

In 1970, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act (which established the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), placing abusable drugs into one of five "schedules"), identified NIMH as the agency primarily responsible for drug education and prevention activities in the federal government.

Following this law, the Federal Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinating Committee (FDAPCC) was established within NIMH in 1970 to serve as a multi-agency coordinating committee on drug abuse health education, fulfilling the recommendation of the Katzenbach Commission. [As noted above, this function was absorbed into SAODAP in 1971, and then transferred to NIDA when it was established within ADAMHA in 1973]

Also in 1970, NIAAA was established as a component of NIMH.

In mid-1973, NIMH (with NIAAA as a subpart) briefly rejoined NIH, then was transferred to ADAMHA when it was founded in late 1973.

As noted above, NIDA was also established in 1973, as a component of NIMH (similar to the origins of NIAAA). Thus, NIMH was the lead agency of ADAMHA, with two subpart agencies -- NIAAA and NIDA.

With the founding of NIDA, the ARC was transferred from NIMH and became the intramural research program of NIDA. The ARC and its clinical research on drug abuse was moved to new federal facilities in Baltimore on a campus of Johns Hopkins University in 1979. Basic research laboratories followed in 1985.

In 1974, both NIAAA and NIDA became separate agencies from NIMH, but all 3 remained within ADAMHA.

In 1992, ADAMHA was abolished by the ADAMHA Reorganization Act. The research branches of NIMH, NIAAA and NIDA rejoined NIH as separate institutes. Notably, the Act provided for the establishment of the Medications Development Program within NIDA to scientifically investigate potential pharmacological treatments for drug abuse.

At the same time, the treatment/service branches of NIMH, NIAAA and NIDA were placed into a new agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA consists of 3 centers: the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) and the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS). SAMHSA now manages both the DAWN survey and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH; the new name of the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse).