Workshop to Unveil, Critique Presentation on Addiction Basics

ASAM members are often asked to teach other professionals about the basics of addiction and the treatment of patients who suffer from substance use disorders, but find themselves challenged to summarize their life’s work in one hour. However, help is on the way.

Workshop 1, “All of Addiction Medicine in 60 Slides and 60 Minutes,” will premiere a PowerPoint presentation developed to help addiction specialists teach non-addiction professionals about the basics of the field. The two-hour workshop will be presented at 10:30 am today in Williford A, on the third floor of the Hilton Chicago.

The 60 slides will be presented as advertised—in 60 minutes—and the second hour of the workshop will be dedicated to attendees giving feedback to Petros Levounis, MD, MA, FASAM, and Abigail Herron, DO, who developed the workshop.

“Our thought is that the presentation will help addiction doctors teach the fundamentals of our field to our colleagues who are eager to learn but do not have any formal training or expertise in addiction medicine. It is designed to be a slide set people can use when they are asked to give a talk to attending physicians, allied health professionals, trainees, and students,” said Dr. Herron, Director of the Fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the Addiction Institute of New York.

The presentation does not look at the field of addiction from 10,000 feet, but provides a surprising amount of depth by drawing heavily from the ASAM Review Course, the ASAM textbook on the principles of addiction medicine, and other review courses, said Dr. Levounis, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School.

“We want to present specific information about what intoxication and withdrawal syndromes look like, what medications we use in addiction medicine, and what major counseling and psychotherapeutic techniques have shown scientific evidence of success,” he said. “In developing the 60/60, we have been careful not to just keep saying ‘It’s important to know about alcohol and drugs. It’s important to understand that treatment works. It’s important to pay special attention to screening adolescents and elderly patients.’

“We don’t want to simply scold and shame people into feeling bad about all the things they don’t know—but they should. On the contrary, we want to capitalize on their enthusiasm and give useful information that they can use at the end of 60 minutes. So, instead of saying ‘It’s important to know we have safe and effective medications in addiction treatment,’ we do show them these medications.”

The presentation also is aimed at physicians, nurses, social workers, counselors, and law enforcement officials who have some experience in dealing with addiction. Dr. Herron called it a “Cliffs Notes version for someone who has read the book—or, perhaps more importantly, for someone who has heard a lot about the book, has not read it, but likes the cover, and would like to learn its most salient contents.”

“We tried to touch on all the major areas. One of the sections of the presentation we are most proud of is the neurobiology of addiction, which tends to be intimidating and thus off-putting to most non-experts. We have simplified receptors, neurotransmitters, and circuitry to make the material accessible to everyone with a college-level biology background,” she said.

For Drs. Levounis and Herron, the second hour of the workshop is as important as the PowerPoint presentation because they want feedback on their efforts.

“We are bracing ourselves for everything,” Dr. Levounis said. “Our workshop reminds me of someone who decides to put together a list of the top 60 athletes or best actors of all time. This is hypothetical, and clearly overambitious; someone should immediately expect a slew of reactions—‘How can you claim to give us the best actors of all time and not have Meryl Streep in there? You are at best an ignoramus and at worst a malignant fraud!’ We are bracing ourselves for people who are going to be rather upset about our slide selections.

“This is a standalone presentation that provides the basics of addiction medicine. We hope it imparts both an overall framework and specific content, and does not simply point people to doors that open to a vast world of information. At the same time, we are aware there is a lot more to be learned about motivational interviewing, 12-step programs, medicines, and a number of things we touch on.”