Designing a Tamper-Resistant Opioid: Announcing the 2019 Addiction Science Award Winners

Award winners Nikita, Sid, and Aditya stand with their award certificates.

Image by NIDA. 

Every year, NIDA honors outstanding teen scientists with the Addiction Science Award. This year, first place was awarded to Aditya Tummala, a high school freshman from Brookings, South Dakota.

Developing a tamper-resistant opioid

Aditya recognized the need for an improved opioid pill to reduce the potential for misuse. He developed a gummy substance that can’t be crushed or melted for snorting or injecting. Called Tampr-X, the substance could be mixed with a medication like an opioid. There’s a critical need for new ideas in developing tamper-resistant medicines, and Aditya’s work could be part of the solution.

Exploring the gene/addiction connection

Second place was awarded to Sid Thakkur, a high school sophomore from Vienna, Virginia. For his project, Sid edited the gene expression of a brain receptor that has been linked to nicotine addiction. He used an advanced gene-editing technology to remove a small portion of genetic material from the receptor. This process could help scientists better understand how a gene influences whether a person is more likely to get addicted to nicotine. Sid hopes that one day, scientists will discover how to edit genes in a way that leads to new ways to treat addiction.

Identifying risky teen behaviors

Nikita Rohila, a high school sophomore from Stuttgart, Arkansas, received the third-place award for her project on teens and their choices. Nikita created a survey to assess teens' risk-taking behaviors and decision-making skills. She found three factors that significantly increased the chances a teen will engage in risky behaviors: unhealthy amounts of smartphone and social media use, not getting enough sleep, and bullying. This information can help create programs that educate teens about making healthy choices.

During the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), NIDA judges review all projects related to addiction science and select three projects for NIDA’s Addiction Science Awards. A group called Friends of NIDA, which shares NIDA’s mission, provides prize money totaling $5,000.

The Intel ISEF (held this year in Phoenix, Arizona) hosts about 1,800 students from more than 75 countries, regions, and territories who have competed and won awards in local and regional fairs. It’s the world’s largest science competition for high school students. Learn more about the awards and check out the winning projects from previous years.

Congratulations to Aditya, Sid, and Nikita, and to all the Addiction Science Award participants!

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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