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May 02, 2009, 2:30 PM


Participants: Cristina Alberini, Stephen Delafield, William Gottdiener, Scott Russo

What is it that makes people powerless even when they know they are about to do something seriously dangerous to their health? An addict sweats through withdrawal, tries hard to stay sober and, perhaps, with persistence and years of commitment and effort, finally thinks he has succeeded. Then, one day, a strong memory comes back, perhaps because he is under particularly severe stress, and suddenly—relapse. If what drives a person to addiction is dependence on a drug and fear of withdrawal symptoms, why should relapses occur so after long after withdrawal? If addiction is about pleasure, why does someone embark down a path that will surely bring nothing but pain? One idea that ongoing research is working on is that addiction may be a form of ''extremely persistent or pathological memory." Thus, one novel therapeutic direction will be to replace old memories with new and different ones. This roundtable will address the perils of addiction, the contribution of memories to relapse, the persistence of addictive behavior and, finally, the experience of coming to terms with the struggle.

Cristina Alberini is Associate Professor of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, and Structural and Chemical Biology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Her current research interest is in learning and memory.

Stephen Delafield received an M.S.Ed. from Hunter College, with a specialization in alcoholism counseling. For the past 15 years he has worked for a number of hospitals and agencies, including Beth Israel, the Abraham Residence, and currently The Parallax Center, a privately-run clinic for drug rehabilitation, where he provides both individual counseling and group therapy.

William Gottdiener is Director of the Addiction Studies Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York, where he is also tenured Associate Professor in the psychology department. He focuses his research on three topics: (a) the psychodynamics of addictive disorders; (b) effectiveness of psychological treatments for addictive disorders; and (c) clinical training in addictive disorders. Dr. Gottdiener is also the North American Associate Editor for the journal, Addiction Research and Theory. In addition to his academic work, he has a private practice in addiction psychology, providing individual psychotherapy, couples therapy, psychological testing, and clinical supervision. Gottdiener received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from The New School for Social Research and completed a postdoctoral substance abuse research fellowship that was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Scott Russo is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His research is focused on understanding how the brain adapts to stress and drugs to guide future behaviors that are relevant to addiction and depression. Dr. Russo obtained his PhD in psychology from CUNY Graduate Center and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.


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