As a way for the community to learn more about addiction and recovery methods, the Source to Solution Addiction and Recovery Symposium provided Lubbockites the opportunity to listen to speakers discuss new research on addiction Friday.
Speakers from both Texas Tech and other institutions broke out into different sessions regarding various addiction and recovery topics during the event, which took place from around 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center.
Chris Townsend, an assistant professor of clinical counseling and mental health at the Tech Health Sciences Center and the director for the Your Life Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic, hosted a breakout session discussing process addictions during the latter half of the symposium.
“That field is still evolving,” Townsend said. “We don’t know a lot about many of those things that we know exist, like sex addiction, eating addictions and, you know, internet addictions.”
Townsend gave several examples of behaviors that release chemicals in the brain that elevate one’s mood, such as intimacy with one’s partner or eating highly palatable food, such as barbecue.
“That’s that dopamine that’s getting released into the brain,” he said. “It’s the feel-good drug that we are naturally given from birth.”
Townsend’s presentation was based mostly around gambling addiction, he said. This behavioral addiction was thoroughly reviewed and passed the criteria for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Behavioral addictions are often coupled with substance misuse.
Gambling behavior can begin at a young age and continue throughout and after college, Townsend said. He presented a real-life case study to the audience about a woman struggling with sexual trauma from her past, troubles within a long-distance marriage, a gambling addiction and a sexual addiction.
After a group discussion about different therapy options for the individual afflictions, Townsend said he used integrative therapy, where everything was being addressed simultaneously to avoid possible relapse.
The Your Life Behavior Health and Wellness Clinic is planning to open soon, Townsend said, with a possible opening date of June 2020.
Emmy Lu Henley, the program director for eating disorders in the Center for Collegiate Recovery Communities at Tech, also spoke, centering her presentation around common ideals surrounding eating disorders
“With recovery communities, about 35 percent that are in recovery from substance are also going to struggle with an eating disorder,” Henley said.
Patients usually undergo three to five years of treatment before experiencing significant changes to their mental health, Henley said.
“The biggest challenge is learning how to live with your drug,” she said.
Those with eating disorders also need a treatment team while recovering, Henley said. A treatment team usually includes a mental health provider, a medical provider, a registered dietitian and psychiatrist.
“I will not work with someone in isolation; that’s not fair,” Henley said. “I can’t do all the work; the therapist can’t do all the work; the psychiatrist can’t do all the work.”
The verbiage professionals currently use may overwhelm some patients, Henley said. The word ‘recovery’ suggests a long process and a goal that is far in the future.
“I’m not going to get into the ‘recovered/recovery’ debate,” she said. “To me, that’s a personal identification; that’s not for me to determine for anyone.”
Lubbock is not the best place for people suffering from eating disorders, Henley said, as the city does not have a lot of resources or professionals to form treatment teams.
“We have an (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals) chapter that just got approved,” Henley said. “The whole reason for starting it is because people don’t know how to find eating disorder professionals in our community.”
Professionals from other institutions also made appearances at the Symposium, including Marie Cox from the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the University of Oklahoma.
Cox hosted a breakout session about the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and substance misuse.
Although from a different state, Cox said her program and research benefits multiple states, including Texas.
“We need to provide high-quality treatment services, so people have a chance to get well and we need to support people who are well and keep them well,” Cox said. “We need to keep people alive to they have the chance to recover.”