UF addiction medicine chief honored for lifetime achievements

May 23, 2006

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mark Gold, M.D., a distinguished professor and chief of addiction medicine at the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida, received the Nelson J. Bradley lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers on Monday (5/22) in Palm Beach.

Gold is recognized for changing the medical field's understanding of how opiate drugs and also cocaine hijack the human brain. His work has led to new treatments for addicts, tests for drug intoxication and understanding of how heroin, other opiates and cocaine cause dependence and withdrawal. His research has also shed light on the dangers of secondhand exposure to smoke and other drugs, and revealed how dopamine - a chemical essential for brain function - is a motivational factor in addiction.

"As a person who has spent 30 years in addiction medicine, receiving an award from the nation's leading treatment professionals and from representatives of centers such as the Betty Ford Center is a great honor," Gold said. "It's particularly exciting and gratifying that recovery professionals feel my research has been valuable and has helped make a difference in how they care for patients."

Gold, a faculty member in the psychiatry department at the College of Medicine since 1990, follows in a long line of innovators who have received the prestigious award since it was first issued in 1983, including former first lady Betty Ford, alcohol recovery pioneer the Rev. Joseph C. Martin, alcohol and drug rehabilitation expert Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., and U.S. Sen. Harold E. Hughes.

"It's wonderful for a researcher to be in the same group as those 34 individuals who have made such an impact in treatment and treatment policy," Gold said.

Gold has demonstrated that brain recovery takes years, not days or weeks.

"Drug abuse is much more like a brain injury or football head trauma than an infection," he said. "Its effects last for years after the trauma or injury."

Although the Bradley award is for lifetime achievement, Gold says his work is far from finished.

"We've really just started to understand how drugs of abuse target and change the brain and what we might do to reverse damage," Gold said. "I'm excited about the research and work we can do at the McKnight Brain Institute during the next 20 years."

University of Florida

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