News Release: Events, Research

Feb. 26,  2009

Addiction Focus of Interdisciplinary Forum

What roles do biology, politics, society, culture and history play in addiction? Leading scholars will gather on Emory's campus to discuss this question during the "Conference on Addiction, the Brain and Society," Feb. 26-28.

Among the fields represented in the line-up are neuroscience, biology, public health, psychology, psychiatry, gender studies, biotechnology and epidemiology.

"Everybody has a different definition of addiction," says Arri Eisen, senior lecturer in biology and director of Emory's Science and Society program, one of the conference hosts. "It's not often that a historian studying addiction sits down with a molecular biologist who is also focused on that topic. Our aim is to spark new ideas and collaborations."

David Courtwright, a renowned addiction historian from the University of North Florida, will deliver the keynote for the international gathering, which features 20 leading researchers from Emory, the National Cancer Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Australian National University , London School of Economics and others.

More information about the conference.

The conference marks the latest chapter in a project started several years ago at Emory to take an integrated approach to addressing addiction and depression in college students.

"We wanted to pick a complicated problem and figure out a way to integrate residential life with intellectual life and the larger community," Eisen says. "We developed a model of thinking about student health holistically. Instead of just telling students not to smoke, we decided to engage them in learning the history of smoking, the biology of it, and the history of how it affects communities."

The project aims to strengthen the campus network required to ensure optimal mental health. "All of these different constituencies across campus are interested in better mental health for students, but they rarely talk with each other," Eisen explains.

A team of faculty involved in the project recently wrote an editorial about the positive reaction of students, and urged other institutions to adopt similar models. The article was published in the Jan.-Feb. issue of the Journal of American College Health, and can be seen at ejournals.emory.edu.

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