A special track of workshops, symposia, and lectures at APA's 2009 annual
meeting in May, coordinated by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and
Alcoholism (NIAAA), will cover topics ranging from how to manage patients with
alcohol use disorders in general practice to new treatments being
Several workshops will focus on helping all psychiatrists feel more
confident and comfortable screening and treating patients in an office setting
for heavy drinking and alcohol dependence. Topics include an overview on
pharmacotherapies, managed care issues, and practical guidelines.
General psychiatrists are not screening and treating patients for such
problems as aggressively as they should, Mark Willenbring, M.D., director of
the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at NIAAA, told Psychiatric
News. He will chair a workshop in this track titled "Helping
Patients Who Drink Too Much: Using the NIAAA Clinician's Guide,"
scheduled for Thursday, May 21. The session is based on an interactive
training guide developed by NIAAA and posted online at<www.niaaa.nih.gov/guide>.
Heavy drinking and alcohol abuse are common comorbidities in patients with
psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety
disorders, Willenbring noted. "General psychiatrists need to get into
the business of treating alcohol-related disorders," he said. Rather
than relying on referring patients to addiction psychiatrists, who are in
short supply, general psychiatrists can make a big difference by integrating
treatment for alcohol use disorders into the overall care.
Several symposia will present the latest clinical and epidemiological
research on alcohol-related disorders, with a special focus on comorbidities
including posttraumatic stress disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity
Drawing from a wealth of data collected by the National Epidemiologic
Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), the session"
Personality Disorders in the United States: Relationship to Early
Experiences, Occurrence, and Course of Axis I Disorders" will focus on
the influence of childhood maltreatment and personality disorders on various
psychiatric disorders including substance and alcohol use disorders. NESARC,
sponsored by NIAAA, is the largest community-based, longitudinal study to date
on the characteristics and progression of alcohol use.
Prevention of alcohol use disorders in youth continues to be a focus. The
symposium "Understanding and Addressing Adolescent Alcohol Consumption
and Alcohol Use Disorders in the Context of Overall Development" will be
held Monday, May 18.
Also, the NIAAA track will cover the latest advances in neuroscience and
genetics that are revealing the causes and mechanisms of alcohol use
disorders, addiction in general, and relapse. Scientists now know far more
about the mechanisms involved in addiction and alcohol cravings beyond the
traditional reward circuits involving dopamine. These discoveries not only
further understanding of the disorders, but also push forward the development
of new treatments.
At the annual meeting, renowned researchers will share their insights into
the neurochemical mechanisms and treatment targets gleaned from genetic and
epigenetic studies. During the symposium "Contribution of Neuroscience
to Medication Development for Alcohol Use Disorder," scheduled for
Monday, May 18, scientists will review an array of new molecules that are
under hot pursuit by researchers and pharmaceutical companies and may become
available in the near future.
"There is so much exciting development in neuroscience, genetics, and
epigenetics, which has helped us identify new targets [in the brain] for
medication development," Willenbring commented. He expressed optimism
that new drugs, probably new classes of drugs, could enter clinical practice
in the near future.
The NIAAA track "is a rich curriculum that nicely combines updates of
basic science advances and the more practical sessions people will find
immediately useful," he said.
The NIAAA track schedule will be published in a future