Director's Column

Volume 20, Number 4, December 2009


photo of Fulton Crews, PhD
Dr. Fulton T. Crews
Director, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies

      As time moves, things change. At the Center, we are growing new young faculty like Donita Robinson, but unfortunately our senior accomplished faculty sometimes decide it is time to play with their grandchildren, as David Overstreet decided. For many years, Overstreet investigated drug effects on rodent alcohol drinking and contributed to the discovery that opiate antagonists reduce alcohol drinking. Naltrexone, an opiate antagonist, is now clinically used to help alcoholics maintain abstinence. David will spend his retirement with his wife and children in Hawaii, Arizona and Australia.

    Donita Robinson is pushing the cutting edge of our understanding of brain function in new and extraordinary directions. Her work indicates that the transition from drug experimentation to excessive-compulsive drug taking is related to changes in behavior and brain signaling that involve specific sites in brain that are not activated during experimentation with drugs, but only become active and important during habitual drug taking. These discoveries are helping better define the neurobiology of addiction.

    The knowledge generated by Overstreet and his contemporaries is being used by Robinson to investigate potential drugs that could block the compulsive habitual drives of addiction. These new and novel neurobiological processes are likely to help find new and better pharmacotherapies for alcoholism. I believe young scientists like Donita Robinson will carry the science further and the next generation will make discoveries that give us robust effective medications that help people break their compulsive drug habits. Change can be painful but is needed to advance science and medicine. Thus, all senior faculty at the Center will continue to mentor new faculty to carry the cause forward.

Carolinas Conference on Addiction and Recovery
    The Carolina’s Conference on Addiction and Recovery was held in Chapel Hill from Oct. 27-30, 2009. This year’s theme, “Creating Recovery Oriented Communities of Care,” focused on bringing primary medical care professionals closer together with the substance abuse counseling community with an emphasis on screening and brief interventions. Dr. Fulton Crews, UNC, opened the conference of 24 presentations to 150 attendees from 12 states. Nineteen exhibitors represented treatment programs, material suppliers, technology suppliers, pharmaceutical representatives and recovery support services. The Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies with the Addiction Recovery Institute received added support from the NC Governor’s Institute and the Medical University of South Carolina Alcohol Research Center. During the multi-day conference, topics included best practices, co-morbidity, family therapy, treatment of veterans and tools for successful recovery. A major emphasis was Screening, Brief Intervention and Referrals to Treatment (SBIRT). Dr. Howard Moss, NIAAA, reviewed his studies indicating five subtypes of alcohol dependence that includes large groups of individuals who never receive counseling. Dr. Thomas Babor, University of Connecticut, covered the value of SBIRT in reducing drinking and health risks. Ms. Joan Peters, Physician Financial Solutions, presented how to include SBIRT in medical practice and cover the cost of screening. The Carolina Conference on Addiction and Recovery continues to bring scientific discovery and science based practices to the treatment community.