Three Addiction Leaders to Speak at Opening Scientific Plenary

The directors of two U.S. government agencies that interact with the addiction medicine community, and former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy will be the featured speakers Friday during the Opening Scientific Plenary. In addition, two of those speakers offer the perspective of being in recovery from addiction.

The Opening Scientific Plenary will be presented from 8:30 to 10 am in Governor’s Ballroom A-C, Fourth Floor. Also during the session, several ASAM award winners will be recognized.

“I think all three of these speakers are going to give our members a window to the public debate and discussion in the field that will be going on in the coming years,” said ASAM President Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, MBA.

Michael P. Botticelli

Michael P. Botticelli

The first speaker will be Michael P. Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) since February. Previously, he was ONDCP Deputy Director under Gil Kerlikowske and became acting director in March 2014. Botticelli is the first director of the agency to be in recovery for substance use disorder. He is expected to discuss ONDCP plans to reform the response to substance use, focusing on overdose prevention, medication-assisted treatment, and criminal justice reform.

“He has a vast understanding of the field from his extensive work with the public. We are excited to have him here,” Dr. Gitlow said. “It is unusual to have a standing director of ONDCP to be present at any medical professional society, so this is a real opportunity to hear what the direction of the ONDCP is going to be going forward. He also is pretty new in this position, so some of his feelings and opinions are just coming to light, which is a great opportunity for us.”

George F. Koob, PhD

George F. Koob, PhD

The second speaker will be George F. Koob, PhD, Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) since January 2014 and former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Addiction Medicine. He will receive the R. Brinkley Smithers Distinguished Scientist Award and present “Reward, Stress and Addiction: Two Faces of Janus.” His lecture will explore how reward and stress neurocircuitry of the brain changes during the course of the addiction cycle, resulting in compulsive drug-seeking behavior.

“We are excited to hear Dr. Koob because he is very familiar with ASAM’s positions and policies, and how those might be worked into some of the research directions NIAAA promotes over the coming years,” Dr. Gitlow said.

Patrick J. Kennedy

Patrick J. Kennedy

The final speaker is Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Founder of the Kennedy Forum, and son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Patrick Kennedy, who is in long-term recovery from addiction, will discuss the importance of the Mental Health Parity Act, how it could be enforced, and the role of addiction medicine in the nation’s health care system.

“Patrick Kennedy has background in addiction that is both personal and in the public interest,” Dr. Gitlow said. “This is a wonderful chance to hear words of wisdom about the direction the country is taking in terms of marijuana right now.”