Long Time NIH Plan to Merge NIAAA and NIDA is Nixed

Addiction Treatment Industry Newswire
11/18/2012 – ATIN- A much anticipated plan to merge federal addiction treatment drug rehab alcohol rehab research agencies has been shelved, falling victim apparently to fierce bureaucratic resistance and infighting. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins two years ago announced that he would follow the recommendation of an advisory body to merge two long time and famous national research bodies, one devoted to alcoholism and the other to drug addiction, into one super addictions research agency. That effort, Collins said late last week, is 
now off.

Bigoted Ignorance

The fact the there are two such separate agencies – no other major country has such a division! – goes back to a bygone era of bigotry and ignorance, a time when the vast majority of addiction treatment centers had different programs for alcoholics and drug addicts, largely because alcoholic clients did not want be associated with “low life” drug addicts and thought of themselves as being from a better class people. This ignorant attitude – totally without scientific basis as alcohol is, in fact, BY FAR the most medically dangerous of the commonly abused substances – was mirrored in the bureaucratic scientific community as two separate agencies, the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, NIAAA, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, were separated in the early 1990s from an agency that also included research into mental health.

Dual Diagnosis

Given what we know today about the linkages between mental illness and addiction, co-morbidity that is so strong that SAMHSA has made Dual Diagnosis one of its top five main priorities for over two decades now, it of course makes little scientific or bureaucratic sense that the original federal research constellation – booze, drugs and mental illness all together – was ever changed.

Booze Industry Influence

Very likely what was behind the original 1990s split, and is clearly behind the stalling of the two agencies’ merger now, is the booze industry. As the War on Drugs intensified in the mid 1980s, the legal booze industry had little desire to be put into the same boat as the increasingly felonized and stigmatized 

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
drug world. Driving that was, and is, the booze industry’s huge fear of losing its incredibly privileged tax status. As cigarettes and other legal addiction health hazards have seen huge increases in taxation, alcohol is still taxed, in inflation adjusted terms, at 1950s levels. Yes, that 1950s and not a typo.

Drug War Failure Indicator

And in a big indication of the complete failure of the policy of cutting off illegal drug supply – the key anchor and justification behind the vast tens of billions a year War On Drugs – is that it is still cheaper to be a heroin addict in many areas these days than it is to be an alcoholic – especially if u drink in bars – despite the zero increase in booze taxation and the fact that, relatively speaking, booze has never been cheaper.

read our Special Report: Big Booze Industry Profits from Pathological Drinking  

read our report on how states are fighting to raise liquor taxes