MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) today hosted Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in Morgantown, W.Va. where they visited West Virginia University’s (WVU) Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) with Director Dr. Ali Rezai to witness their innovative work on addiction.

During the visit, Dr. Volkow delivered a presentation on the national opioid crisis with a focus on the drug fentanyl. Additionally, Dr. Rezai provided the group with an overview of the RNI’s efforts for innovation solutions to combat Substance Use Disorder and discuss how others can support NIDA’s mission to advance science.

“Dr. Volkow’s work over the course of her impressive career in demonstrating the drug addiction is a brain disorder has laid the foundation for many of the research projects we are seeing here today at WVU—led by Dr. Rezai and others,” Senator Capito said. “Unfortunately, far too many of us here in West Virginia are too familiar with addiction and its consequences. Our rising overdose numbers show exactly why the work Dr. Volkow is leading at NIDA is so important to the world and to West Virginia. In my many conversations with Dr. Volkow, she has always shown an understanding and willingness of the challenges facing states like West Virginia. She also fully shares my commitment to doing everything we can to defeat this epidemic. I thank her for visiting today and for her insights on and challenges posed by the opioid crisis.”

“We are experiencing an overdose and addiction crisis in West Virginia and across the country,” Dr. Volkow said. “We need innovative solutions to this unprecedented rate of deaths. While we already have safe and effective medical treatments for opioid use disorder, developing new methods of treatment is critical to make sure that people have choices and tools that can work in their unique lives. Dr. Rezai’s research is one example of how cutting-edge applications of technology hold promise for the future.”

“It is an honor to host Dr. Volkow, the NIDA team, and Senator Capito at the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute to share the progress that we are making in addiction research and treatment. Dr. Volkow spoke about the increasing need to address addiction in new and bold ways. The WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute is using innovative technology to advance the science and treatment of addiction. Thanks to ongoing support from NIDA, our faculty and staff are committed to improving the lives of those who live in West Virginia and beyond,” RNI Director Dr. Rezai said.


In 2020, West Virginia recorded 1,296 drug overdose deaths, with 85% of these determined to be opioid-related. This is a 45% increase in fatal overdoses from 2019 to 2020. Fentanyl was involved in 3/4 of these overdose deaths, with methamphetamine playing a role in nearly half of all overdose deaths last year. Unfortunately, the preliminary overdose numbers for 2021 appear to be a continuation of this trend with the West Virginia Departmet of Health and Human Resources’ (DHHR) Office of Drug Control Policy showing as many as 922 drug overdose deaths as of the end of June 2021.

As a research psychiatrist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate how substance use affects brain functions. In particular, Dr. Volkow’s studies have documented that changes in the dopamine system affect the functions of frontal brain regions involved with reward and self-control in addiction. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity, ADHD, and aging. She became Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in May 2003.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is the world’s largest funder of research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction.

Photos from today’s event are included below:

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U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) hosts Dr. Nora Volkow at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown, W.Va. on Monday, November 15, 2021.

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U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduces Dr. Nora Volkow before her presentation at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown, W.Va. on Monday, November 15, 2021.

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U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Dr. Nora Volkow hear from Dr. Ali Rezai at West Virginia University (WVU) in Morgantown, W.Va. on Monday, November 15, 2021.

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