Marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs. All can lead to life-altering addictions. How does that happen? Why are some people more vulnerable to addiction?
U-M’s winter 2012 research theme semester, “Hooked: Addiction, Society & Culture,” will examine these questions, exploring the complex nexus of addiction and society. Sponsored by LSA, the campuswide research theme semester is being organized by John Traynor, director of the U-M Substance Abuse Research Center (UMSARC) and professor of pharmacology, and Michelle McClellan, assistant professor of history and the Residential College.
The biological, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual components of substance use and abuse are ideal subjects for interdisciplinary examination, event organizers say. The theme semester on addiction will bring together faculty and students from various disciplines to develop new areas of research. It also will help to develop a campus community that is better informed about substance use, abuse and addiction, organizers add.
U-M researchers in more than 20 departments representing basic, clinical and social sciences, and the humanities, are addressing issues such as medical marijuana, prescription drug diversion, historical and demographic patterns of drug use, and the search for medications to treat addictive disorders.
With expertise that ranges from the action of drugs of abuse at the cellular level, to clinical applications of pharmacological research, to policy recommendations, to cultural analysis, U-M continues to make field-defining contributions to this scholarship, event organizers say.
“Addiction is a brain disease,” Traynor says. “More than any other disease, understanding addiction and developing methods to manage and prevent addictions require a multidisciplinary approach. Like many mental disorders, addiction carries a huge stigma. This theme semester provides a great opportunity to develop a campus and local community that is more aware of this disease and the ongoing work at the university.”
Activities during the semester, including a seminar series and panel discussions, will highlight research at U-M, create new research opportunities for students and develop new curricula related to substance use and abuse and addiction. A film series and art exhibit will be open to the public.
“Addiction, and the use of psychoactive substances, are multifaceted phenomena that need to be understood from diverse perspectives,” McClellan says. “As a historian, who joined UMSARC, I have learned a great deal from my colleagues in other fields. We hope this semester will encourage faculty and students to engage with disciplinary approaches and viewpoints that may be very different from their own to advance research and learning in this important area.”
Highlights of the semester include:
• Thursday — A free public screening of the film “The Narcotic Farm,” followed by a discussion with the filmmakers. Narrated and scored by former inmate Wayne Kramer of the radical 1960s rock band the MC5, the film tells the story of this American institution through the voices of the former addicts who spent years locked within its walls. Government-produced films and photographs take viewers inside the prison, highlighting its thriving jazz scene and revealing the experience of prisoners used as test subjects in its world-famous drug-research program, 7-10 p.m. Angell Hall, Auditorium A, 435 S. State St. For more information go to www.narcoticfarm.com/t2_film.html.
• Feb. 1 — Workshop: “How Much is Too Much? Conversations about Drugs, Sex, and Gender,” 4-7 p.m., Michigan Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University Ave.
• Feb. 4 — Opening reception for “Bad Habits: Drinks, Drags and Drugs in Washtenaw County History,” noon-4 p.m., the Museum on Main Street, 500 N. Main St. The exhibit will run until April 29.
For more information on the research semester go to www.sitemaker.umich.edu/umsarc.
Jeremy Towler, inventory control clerk, School of Dentistry, volunteer firefighter, on performing his day job: “There’s a lot of people to keep track of. Students tell me they couldn’t do it without me.”