The Science of Addiction

One in ten adults suffer from addiction.

Everyone who has watched a loved one suffer from addiction wonders, “Why are they acting like this? Why can’t they stop?” And people with addictions wonder the same things about themselves. Many people think of addiction as a moral failing, or as a conscious choice—yet neither belief is supported by scientific evidence.

This program will give an overview of the most up-to-date understanding of addiction as a disease of the brain. Some of the top experts in Chicago and in the nation will discuss how addiction changes the brain, what the experience of addiction is like, and what therapies are in development to treat people with this disease.

Addiction is one of the most common forms of mental illness in the world. Tens of millions of Americans, and over a quarter of a billion people worldwide, have an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Everyone who has watched a loved one suffer from addiction wonders, “Why are they acting like this? Why can’t they stop?” And people with addictions wonder the same things about themselves. Many people think of addiction as a moral failing, or as a conscious choice—neither belief is supported by scientific evidence.

Over the past 30 years, great strides have been made in the scientific understanding of addiction, and this understanding has led to improved outcomes for those afflicted. As this research continues, we will see further progress in the prevention, treatment, and outcome for addiction.

This program will give an overview of the most up-to-date understanding of addiction as a disease of the brain. Some of the top experts in Chicago and in the nation will discuss how addiction changes the brain, what the experience of addiction is like, and what therapies are in development to treat people with this disease.

Amy Lasek, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She studies the neuroscience of alcohol and drug addiction at the molecular and cellular level. Her research aims to identify the specific genes in the brain that regulate addictive behavior. Dr. Lasek also studies the neurobiology of sex differences, to understand why men and women respond differently to drugs, with the goal of using this knowledge as a basis for developing more effective treatments for addiction. In addition to publications in numerous peer-reviewed scientific journals, and her work has been featured in Chemical and Engineering News and Scientific American. She is funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Dr. Lasek received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Cornell University.

Christopher Holden, M.D., is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine. He works as the Director of Addiction Services in the Department of Psychiatry at the university, and also as the Medical Director of the Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program at the Jesse Brown VA. Dr. Holden is board certified in General and Addiction Psychiatry, and believes in taking an integrated approach to the treatment of psychiatric conditions. Patients are most likely to recover from psychiatric and addictive disorders when they are addressed simultaneously, in particular with multiple complementary approaches, which can include medication and psychotherapy. He is published in the fields of addiction medicine and basic biomedical research. Dr. Holden received his medical degree from the University of Illinois, and completed his psychiatry residency at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

T. Celeste Napier, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, and is the Director for the Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction at Rush University. Dr. Napier has received continuous research support from the National Institute of Health (NIH) since 1990. Her scientific interests include the neuroscience of motivational behaviors, including those that regulate healthy decision-making versus those associated with drug and behavioral addictions. She has over 200 publications in on topics that span molecular biology, biochemistry, neurophysiology and behavior. Her research directly translates into medication development for mental health disorders.

She has provided expert testimony to the US Congress Committee on Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology, and to Illinois House of Representatives, Heroin and Youth Task Force Hearing. She is frequently sought after by the news media on matters related to neuropharmacology, drug addiction and the adolescent brain. Dr. Napier has a PhD in Pharmacology from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

Moderator: Tom Macek, Ph.D., is a Senior Director and Global Program leader of the CNS Therapeutic Area Unit at Takeda Development Center Americas. For the last 16 years, his primary focus has been the clinical development of new medications for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders. Prior to joining Takeda, he was Director of Clinical Neurosciences at Pfizer. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan (Pharm.D.) and Emory University (Ph.D.). He is a former Clinical Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Eugene Appelbaum Colleges of Pharmacy. He is a founding member of The International Society for CNS Clinical Trials and Methodology (ISCTM), a former member of the ISCTM Scientific and Programs Committee, and former member of the Scientific Board and Industry Partners Committees for the Measurement and Treatment Research to Improve Cognition in Schizophrenia (MATRICS).