The Edge District

UTHSC to host virtual addiction symposium for health care professionals and the public, May 4

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is inviting health care professionals and members of the public to attend a live, virtual collection of brief lectures and presentations about abuse of alcohol, nicotine, opiates, and other substances.

Ten presenters will speak on a wide range of topics. Each lecture will run between 5 and 18 minutes.

UTHSC will host its Addiction Symposium on May 4 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. via Zoom. It is free to attend, but registration is required. Click here to register.

Some topics will be relevant to a broad range of Memphians, like the severity of addiction in Tennessee and the stigma of getting help in the African American community. Other sections will be more scientific in nature, like a presentation about how genetics may affect nicotine use in rats.

UTHSC Distinguished Professor Dr. Burt Sharp is the event organizer. He said the symposium is for everyone, including professionals in the health field, healthcare practitioners, caregivers, and interested members of the public. For healthcare professionals, the event is accredited for two hours of continuing medical education.

Sharp hopes all attendees will walk away with a deeper understanding of the nature of substance abuse.

“Why is it so difficult to quit taking opiates, for example, which are some of the most addictive compounds? Many individuals think it is just due to bad moral character. That's the old argument from 50 years ago, which we now know is absolutely false,” said Sharp.

“We see it now largely as a problem in the neurobiology of the brain. That has been the case for a quarter of a century but we're still involved in overcoming mistaken attitudes.”

Sharp said Memphis is uniquely affected by addiction because of the number of “socioeconomically compromised” areas in the city.

Sharp said that when more people in the community are aware of the realities of addiction, they may better understand the struggles some of their neighbors have with substances.

“It becomes plain to individuals who don't suffer from drug abuse, why individuals who are abusing substances have such severe cravings. The brain is exploited by the drug, ultimately, and causes them to set aside so many ‘normal’ behaviors,” Sharp said.

The college prepared for this symposium by running a smaller pilot program in December 2019, offered only to faculty on the UTHSC campus in Memphis. Sharp and his team knew it was a viable program when word began to spread across the state. More professionals requested access, including faculty from other UT campuses and members of state-level organizations for health care professionals.

“Notice of this symposium went out to the entire faculty and student body of the College of Medicine statewide,” said Sharp. “It's going out to all the American Psychiatric Association members in the state of Tennessee. So, we truly are operating in at least five different major cities of the state of Tennessee and truly from west to east.”

Addiction Symposium Schedule:
12:00 – 12:07 p.m. | "Introduction to the Misuse and Addiction to Opiates, Alcohol, and Nicotine and Synopsis of Opiate Addiction in Tennessee" | Dr. Burt Sharp,
UTHSC College of Medicine

12:07 – 12:12 p.m. | "The Severity of the Addiction Epidemic in Tennessee and the Leadership Needed by UTHSC in the Discovery of Novel Treatment" | Randy Boyd, University of Tennessee

12:12 – 12:30 p.m. | "Building Strong Brains During a Pandemic" | Rev. Charlie Caswell, Legacy of Legends

12:30 – 12:48 p.m. | "Approach to Diagnosing Addictive Disorders" | Dr. Ronald L. Cowan, UTHSC College of Medicine

12:48 – 1:06 p.m. | "Transmissible Liability for Addiction; a Developmental Perspective" | Dr. Maureen Reynolds, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy

1:06 – 1:11 p.m. | "A National Center for Highly Replicable Animal Studies of Addiction" | Dr. Robert Williams, UTHSC College of Medicine

1:11 – 1:23 p.m. | "Genetic Factors Influencing Socially-Acquired Voluntary Nicotine Intake in Rats" | Dr. Hao Chen, UTHSC College of Medicine

1:23 – 1:35 p.m. | "Factors that Influence the Severity of Ethanol's Effects in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)" | Dr. Kristin Hamre, UTHSC College of Medicine

1:35 – 1:50 p.m. | "Combating the Stigma of Substance Use Treatment Seeking in the African American Community" | Dr. Karen Derefinko, UTHSC College of Medicine

1:50 – 2:00 p.m. "Highlights and the Importance of Training Clinicians and Affiliated Personnel" | Dr. Scott Strome, UTHSC College of Medicine
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Read more articles by Sarah Rushakoff.

Sarah Rushakoff was raised in Memphis and is a graduate of White Station High School and the University of Memphis. She is a longtime member of Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe and works professionally as a graphic designer, writer, and photographer.