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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Addiction Expert Receives AAAP Founders Award

December 13, 2007

HOUSTON – A lifetime of commitment and contributions to the field of addiction are the basis of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry’s Founders Award, which was presented this year to Thomas Kosten, M.D. at the organization’s meeting in Coronado, California.

Kosten is the senior advisor on Substance Abuse based in the Mental Health Care Line at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC).  He is also the Jay H. Waggoner professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and research director of the Veteran Affairs National Substance Use Disorders Quality Enhancement Research Initiative.

In 2002 and 2003 according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated eight percent (approximately two million) of male veterans aged 18 or older were dependent on or abusing alcohol or illicit drugs. The study showed younger male veterans were more likely to have co-occurring serious mental illness and a substance use disorder than older male veterans.

The Substance Dependence Treatment Program (SDTP) at the MEDVAMC is a critical element in the facility’s comprehensive mental health treatment services. The SDTP is a six month, outpatient treatment program serving veterans struggling with alcohol and other drug dependence. Inpatient detox is available when medically necessary. Most veterans present with addiction to alcohol, crack cocaine, and/or marijuana; however, the MEDVAMC also offers a methadone program for patients with opiate dependence. Many veterans in this program are homeless, unemployed, and have psychiatric diagnoses in addition to substance use disorders.  The SDTP works closely with the VA Healthcare for Homeless Veterans and the Vocational Rehabilitation Services programs. 

For the past 30 years, Kosten’s work in discovering and developing medications to treat addiction have resulted in a series of vaccines and technologies that will have a lasting impact on the field of addiction.

“I am very pleased to have received this award which has in the past been given to several of my mentors in the field,” said Kosten, founding member and past president of AAAP from 1998 to 2000. 

Kosten has several major awards for clinical research, is editor of two major Journals in substance abuse, and has been on the American Journal of Psychiatry Editorial Board. Recently, he served on the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine Committee on vaccines for substance abuse. 

Kosten’s work primarily focuses on developing new medications for treating cocaine and opiate dependence. He has developed a cocaine vaccine, TA-CD, to treat the addiction, as well as disulfiram for cocaine abuse. Kosten also has worked to develop buprenorphine for opiate dependence, which has now overtaken marijuana as the most common drug abused by adolescents.

Using neuroimaging technology, Kosten has shown that 60 to 70 percent of cocaine abusers suffer from minor strokes, and that plavix, aspirin and ameloride, a diuretic, could treat these strokes.

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