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Currents - Sept. 2011 - Addictions Institute 2
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NASW-NYC’s 43rd Addictions Institute focuses on Spirituality and Science

The Effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous and Complementary Approaches to Treatment Were Highlights of Keynote Presentations


 Top Left: Attendees at the 43rd Annual Addictions Institute participate in a Chi Gong exercise led by keynote speaker Dr. Richard Brown, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University (top right). Bottom Left: Keynote Speaker Dr. Marc Galanter, professor of psychiatry and founding director at NYU Medical Center's division on Alcohol and Drug Abuse presents on the history and efficacy of 12-step programs.




This year’s Addictions Institute, held on June 1st at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus, focused on “Science, Social Work and Spirituality: Bridging Diverse Approaches for Effective Addiction Treatment and Recovery”.

It was an ambitious undertaking, with 51 workshops offered, an all time high for what has been a tradition at NASW since the late 1960s. The Institute is one of NASW’s longest standing programs, both in New York and nationally.

Dr. Marc Galanter, a professor of psychiatry and founding director at NYU Medical Center’s division on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, gave a keynote presentation on the history and efficacy of 12-step programs, with a particular focus on Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. Galanter shared that over 1.1 million people are currently participating in AA programs around the United States in approximately 52,000 groups. Another 930,000 are participating around the world in another 46,000 groups.

He pointed out that with so many groups available, almost everywhere, there is much greater access to help for alcoholism than there would otherwise be. In discussing the effectiveness of AA, Dr. Galanter said that although many people may not be interested in the spiritual aspects of AA, it is often effective regardless of a persons’ prior level of religiosity or motivation. He also said that an initial reluctance to enter AA is not a predictor of how one will do. The engagement and social support were noted as especially important.

A second key note address was given by Dr. Richard Brown, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Dr. Brown addressed the theme of “Complementary and Integrative Approaches for Treatment of Drug Dependency”. In starting his presentation, Dr. Brown had more than 250 people in attendance on their feet doing Chi Gong breathing exercises which he said can be used to help people with trauma and stress to relax. Its effect was probably self-evident as the audience participated. Chi Gong is a form of Chinese exercise that focuses on energy, awareness and breath.

One approach that Dr. Brown discussed was the use of cranial stimulation in dealing with addictions. He said that  cranial stimulators are devises someone can put on their head for 20 minutes at a time to increase endorphins and generate brain waves that resembles those of someone doing meditation. He said that he often prescribes 25 such treatments with good results. (For more about Dr. Brown’s work, go to

Prior to the keynote presentations, David Mineta, Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy was introduced. Mr. Mineta is a social worker addressing demand reduction and talked about the importance of the profession in prevention and assessment. He expressed special concern about the level of use of marijuana among teens. He said that messages about legalization and the benefits of medical marijuana make it very difficult to get the word out about its harmful effects and its impact on younger people.



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