A Note from the Director

Addiction to illicit and prescribed drugs, to alcohol and tobacco, and to behaviors including gambling, disordered eating and sexual risk-taking, leads to more death and disability than any other preventable health condition. Addiction is increasingly viewed as a chronic medical condition with well established genetic, psychological and environmental risk factors. There are well described brain changes that result from, and that may perpetuate addictive behaviors, and there are effective pharmacological and behavioral therapies. Addictive behaviors contribute to the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other infections; addiction exacerbates many chronic medical illnesses including asthma, hypertension, obesity and arthritis; and addiction is associated with lost school and workplace productivity and increased healthcare utilization and costs. Health disparities associated with addiction disproportionately distribute these impacts across society. 

Recently a more realistic and less stigmatized public view of addiction has emerged via media attention including the Emmy Award winning HBO Addiction series, big-ticket films, cover stories in Newsweek and Time, and front-page NY Times coverage. Tobacco, alcohol and drugs are core health issues identified in Mayor Bloomberg’s “Take Care New York” agenda for longer, healthier lives. As a private university in the public service the study and treatment of addiction has long been a key part of the overall NYU mission and has now been formalized and recognized by the designation of the Center of Excellence on Addiction. It is in this broad context that we have set as our goal to reduce the burden of addiction on individuals, on families and on our community.

The scope of our Center includes: licit (alcohol, tobacco, prescription painkillers, etc.) and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine, etc.) and behaviors; basic neuroscience to population health research; clinical and research training; and clinical services including specialized addictions services as well as integration of addictions expertise into primary care, emergency department, dental practice and other healthcare settings. We have begun to bridge translational research-, training- and clinical services- gaps by establishing a University-wide, multidisciplinary consortium. 

The Center builds on NYU’s far-reaching strengths in basic and clinical neuroscience and cuts across departmental and institutional lines. Because of our scope and diversity we are geographically de-centralized. Faculty and investigators are organized into research collaborative working groups along the translational spectrum, and projects draw expertise and support from various developing cores. 

Expertise spans the range of translational research described in the NIH Roadmap from bench to bedside, to clinic, to community, to population. Research collaborative working groups, each of which include a half dozen or more investigators and laboratories, include: basic neuroscience and pharmacology; clinical neuroscience, imaging and genetics; clinical pharmacology; social science; behavioral therapies; medical consequences of addiction; healthcare delivery settings; epidemiology, community outreach and prevention; and public health, criminal justice and policy. 

Another goal of the Center is to mentor and train new generations of multidisciplinary translational addiction researchers, a group recognized to be in short supply.

Finally, to overcome barriers to the adoption of sustainable evidence-based innovation, we have established close working relationships with organizations in the NYU-served community. Our partnerships with NY City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, its Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, its Department of Correction and its Department of Education which runs the largest public schools system in the US – as well as Center expertise in dissemination, implementation and sustainability – together afford an exceptional opportunity to extend meaningful translational efforts to get effective evidence-based prevention and treatment to the community.

None of this would have been possible – in spite of the longstanding and diverse expertise and commitment at NYU – without Vivian Lee’s and Bob Grossman’s vision and leadership and the generous gifts that established the Centers of Excellence.

Please join us in achieving our mission. 


John Rotrosen, MD