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Minnesota center honors UTHSC addiction researcher

Bankole A. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Southwest Texas Addiction Research and Technology Center (START) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has been selected to receive the 2001 Dan Anderson Research Award, one of the top prizes in addiction research.

The award, sponsored by the Hazelden Foundation of Minnesota, recognizes Dr. Johnson for cutting-edge research that helps clinicians better understand the biological basis of alcoholism. Dr. Johnson's innovative studies suggest that a medication called ondansetron may someday prove to be an effective adjunct of care for patients with early-onset alcoholism.

The Hazelden Foundation provides a wide range of information and treatment services on addiction and recovery. Many other leading treatment centers, including the Betty Ford Clinic, are modeled after Hazelden. Dr. Anderson, president emeritus, pioneered the Minnesota Model, a comprehensive approach to alcoholism treatment.

Dr. Johnson, who will accept the award May 17 in Minnesota, is the William and Marguerite Wurzbach Distinguished Professor at the Health Science Center, deputy chairman of research in the department of psychiatry, chief of the alcohol and drug addiction division, and professor of psychiatry and pharmacology.

He earned the award for his study published Aug. 23, 2000, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study's major findings demonstrate that ondansetron treatment significantly decreased the number of drinks consumed per day and increased periods of abstinence in early-onset alcoholics (or biologically predisposed alcoholic patients) but not in late-onset alcoholics. This is the first study that successfully used medication to achieve abstinence in biologically predisposed alcoholics, and it is also the first investigation that demonstrated the importance of tailoring pharmacotherapy in accordance with a subtype of alcoholism.

Contact: Will Sansom