Western Baptist Hospital plans a symposium on addictive and compulsive behavior Saturday, featuring many therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists appearing on television.
Dr. Patrick Withrow, chief medical officer at WBH, said the program is open to members of the medical community and people who face substance abuse in a professional capacity including law enforcement, clergy, educators and emergency medical personnel.
“Substance abuse is a major problem. Some studies show that 70 percent of child abuse is related to substance abuse, and 9 percent of the population suffers from some type of substance abuse,” Withrow said.
The Saturday symposium begins with registration at 7:30 a.m. and runs until 3:45 p.m. Continuing education credit will be offered for some occupations. Interested people should enroll by Thursday and the symposium has a fee of $30. Lunch will be provided.
Withrow said presenters will include medical and behavioral specialists, substance abuse treatment program coordinators and educators. Topics include abstinence vs. moderation, women’s issues, psychiatric and neurological problems related to addiction, gambling, food addiction and others.
Dr. Terry L. Alley, medical director of Cumberland Heights in Nashville, is scheduled to talk about women’s health issues related to addiction. He said addiction is now recognized in medicine as a disease, where before it was looked at a lack of character. The disease stems from a physical defect in the brain.
“There is even some research that indicates all compulsive behavior stems from problems in the same neuro-chemical pathway,” Alley said.
Alley said current addiction treatment requires a patient with a substance abuse problem to recognize the problem and change values and behaviors to overcome addiction. Care providers also face a growing problem of addiction based on prescription painkillers.
“We’re seeing a problem now where addicts are going to houses for sale, asking to use the bathroom and raiding the medicine cabinet to find prescriptions,” Alley said. “We’re also seeing more heroin use because dealers are coming in to offer their drugs when prescription users can’t obtain a medicine.”
Alley said legislation and criminalization has not been effective defeating addiction. Education, understanding risk factors and behavioral modification remain the best tools battling addiction.
“They took cocaine out of Coca-Cola and made some drugs illegal, but it hasn’t changed usage. People are still using drugs,” Alley said. “And it’s not a character problem. There is no more of a dedicated group than addicts. It takes a lot of time and effort to obtain a supply while maintaining a job and family while using.”