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Kenneth Warren, Ph.D.

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SW: What day-to-day applications has your research had for both clinicians and non-clinicians?

KW:  There have been many applications of findings emerging from programmatic research efforts that I have been involved in, from overall alcohol research in general to FASD.  This includes the development of clinical guides, new knowledge that is applicable to diagnosis and to prevention messages and technologies.  I have seen a high payoff from the research programs I have overseen through the NIAAA.

SW: What would you like to see happen in the addiction-research field?

KW:  For FASD, I would like to see a greater ability to recognize children affected by prenatal alcohol early in life, and new interventions to help address their behavioral deficits, and I believe strongly that we are moving in that direction.  

For the addiction field in general, probably the most important thing is enhancing the development of new medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, and for other addictive agents as well.  It is very unlikely that any medication will in itself serve as a “cure” for these addictive disorders.  But medications are important to address the physiological factors in these disorders, thereby aiding other behavior-based therapies to achieve recovery. 

In the last 20 years, a number of important medications to aid in the treatment of “alcoholism” have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), plus at least one more by the European Medical Agency, and several others not yet approved by the FDA have proved valuable in research trials.  Yet there is still a need for other medications that target a wider array of sites within the brain and aspects of addiction that are important to manage “alcoholism” and other addictive disorders.  Also needed are new medications for the organ diseases caused by alcohol, for example, alcoholic cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis.

SW: What advice do you have for people now entering addiction research?

KW:  My advice would be to adhere to your research goals.  There are many unanswered questions in alcohol research, and a great need for new talent in this field.  However, I would add that, with academic positions currently becoming scarce, there are many alternative opportunities to contribute to the pursuit of your research goals, including government and private agencies, research policy, journalism, and others.  Keep an open mind to the many potential ways that a person can achieve fulfillment as a researcher. 

SW:  What does your recent award – the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award – mean to you on a personal level?

KW:  I was very surprised.  Upon reflection, I have a sense that it represents that the four decades I have spent in fostering the research of scientists in the alcohol community, and serving in leadership roles at the NIAAA, are truly appreciated by other scientists in the field.  I am truly humbled and honored by this tribute. 

SW: Any last words for the ATTC audience?

KW: I would note that there are important new research findings emerging more rapidly now from the NIH, NIAAA, and our sister institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, for those who work in the field of addiction clinical care and education.  I would urge clinicians and educators to stay focused on the research activities of the NIH as new knowledge appears that can be applied to the benefit of those with addiction disorders.











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