Neurobiology of Substance Use Disorders

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To find new treatments for the devastating disease of addiction, UF researchers are tackling the disorder from all angles: at the molecular level, via behavioral neuroscience and through human laboratory studies and epidemiological approaches.


Over the last decade, UF has exponentially expanded its number of faculty members devoted to the understanding of addiction and the pursuit of new treatments, with funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism on a parallel rise. UF faculty members from across campus focus on varying aspects of addiction, from neuroscience and psychiatry to pharmacy and nursing, among many other disciplines. UF is a site for the NIH’s landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study — the largest prospective study of development from childhood through adolescence. The study assesses brain structure/function and cognitive development, evaluates the consequences of early substance use and explores the protective effects of family and other sociocultural factors.

Research Highlights include:

  • Development of new opioid analgesics with reduced potential for abuse
  • Testing of potential pharmacological therapies to combat addiction and relapse
  • Evaluating pilot programs that use mobile apps with a goal of reducing problem drinking
  • Testing of brain-training programs aimed at helping the brain recover from substance use

Affiliated UF Centers

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Center for Addiction Research & Education (CARE)

Led by director Dr. Sara Jo Nixon, CARE is one of UF’s longest-existing university-wide centers, focused on creating a comprehensive and interdisciplinary environment that will lead to highly specialized research capable of shedding light on the neurobiological causes and consequences of alcohol and drug abuse. CARE includes scientists from a wide range of basic science and clinical departments and colleges at UF to provide diverse perspectives on understanding addiction.

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