At APA's 2006 annual meeting in Toronto, the National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is collaborating with APA on a series of sessions
on recent advances in understanding and treating alcohol use disorders (AUDs)
and highlighting issues related to the co-occurrence of AUDs with other drug
use and mental disorders.
The collaborative sessions include more than 50 lectures, workshops, and
symposia by nationally recognized experts. They explore the latest findings on
at-risk drinking, alcoholism, and comorbidity and feature new resources and
techniques in pharmacotherapy, screening, and other important clinical
"This promises to be a terrific track at the annual meeting,"
said Eric Strain, M.D., chair of APA's Council on Addiction Psychiatry."
Along with NIAAA's release of its new publication, Helping Patients
Who Drink Too Much—A Clinician's Guide, the track will give general
psychiatrists substantial opportunities to update their clinical skills and
learn about recent research findings related to alcohol use
In keeping with the theme of this year's meeting, "From Science to
Public Policy: Advocacy for the Profession and Patients," several
sessions address the mental health profession's broader influence on public
policy in areas such as college drinking and the prevention of underage
drinking. Other presentations explore the potential impact of data from recent
studies—including NIAAA's National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and
Related Conditions (NESARC)—on developing the next edition of the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).
NESARC data indicated that almost 40 percent of people who reported a major
depressive episode in their lifetime also had experienced AUDs. Significant
rates of comorbidity were also found with co-existing anxiety disorders,
antisocial syndromes, and other conditions, according to NIAAA Director
Ting-Kai Li, M.D.
These data not only clarify the extent and severity of comorbidity, but
also have immediate clinical implications. How can practitioners best screen
for and diagnose alcohol problems among psychiatric patients? To what extent
does alcohol misuse impact on psychiatric treatment? What types of
interventions are effective among patients with comorbid alcohol and mental
disorders? Does heavy alcohol consumption alter the effectiveness of
psychiatric medications? Are there shared factors that contribute to the risk
of AUDs and other psychiatric disorders? How might practitioners
comprehensively address the need for specialized follow-up and referrals for
people with addiction and co-occurring disorders? Several NIAAA-supported
sessions are designed to offer information on advances in dual diagnosis,
screening and brief intervention, and therapy.
According to Li, alcohol is the drug of choice among adolescents, and
addressing alcohol disorders in young people remains a priority. Even as
increasing scientific interest is shedding light on the effects of alcohol
consumption on adolescent development, important opportunities exist for
practitioners to address alcohol-related problems in young patients.
Li said, "This is the intersection where science and medicine can
make significant progress, both by integrating screening and diagnosis for
alcohol disorders in adolescents, as well as by influencing policy decisions
about prevention, intervention, and treatment to safeguard the health of young
A special symposium titled "Alcohol Use Disorders and Psychiatric
Comorbidity" addresses important challenges in the psychiatric
assessment and management of adolescents with AUDs and co-occurring mental
illness. The objective of the session, which will be chaired by NIAAA
Associate Director Howard B. Moss, M.D., is to inform clinical practitioners
of research findings on the assessment and treatment of adolescent AUDs and
NIAAA and APA organizers have put together a wide range of sessions that
feature leading specialists in pharmacotherapy, genetics, the neurobiology of
alcoholism, and other fields.
Two sessions chaired by Mark L. Willenbring, M.D., director of NIAAA's
Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, emphasize practical techniques
for screening and brief intervention, motivational enhancement strategies, and
the use of medications for AUDs and comorbid disorders in general psychiatric
practice. The presentations highlight an important resource for psychiatrists
and mental health professionals, NIAAA's 2005 edition of Helping Patients
Who Drink Too Much—A Clinician's Guide.
A number of presentations focus on NESARC, the largest study ever conducted
of the co-occurrence of psychiatric disorders among U.S. adults. The study's
director, Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., chief of NIAAA's Laboratory of Epidemiology
and Biometry, will co-chair several sessions, including the symposium"
Substance Use Disorders: Planning a Research Agenda for
DSM-V," a look ahead at critical questions related to revisions
in the criteria and definitions fundamental to psychiatry.
Finally, the symposium "Taking Science to Policy: Efforts to Reduce
Harm Related to Alcohol Misuse" considers how mental health experts can
leverage their unique expertise to promote policy changes. Case studies on
underage drinking, drunken driving, and trauma-center policies are reviewed in
this session, which will be co-chaired by Willenbring and Ralph W. Hingson,
Sc.D., director of NIAAA's Division of Epidemiology and Prevention
Each of the NIAAA sessions is noted in the annual meeting program as a"
Collaborative Session With the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and