Symposium of the Society for the Study of Addiction: A cultural shift? (#ssa)

Among the Top 5 conferences in the Addiction field worldwide, the SSA symposium (http://www.addiction-ssa.org/) came to pass last week in York (UK). For obvious reasons, the conference organisers are loyal to the same venue for a number of years. Not only it is a spectacular historical town, but it’s accessible from most of the UK research centres of excellence by a couple of hours drive.

Our group brought to the conference a set of related presentations honouring the results of our hard work in the past years. They were all linked by a genuine need to come up with realistic solutions to drinking among methadone users (or other problem drug users):

Problem alcohol use among DUs in primary care: evidence, barriers, research agenda

 The following are titles of three related papers presented together at the conference:

  1.  Problem alcohol use among problem drug users: Development of clinical guidelines for general practice
  2.  The management of problem alcohol use among drug users in primary care: Exploring patients’ experience of screening and treatment
  3.  Psychosocial interventions to reduce alcohol consumption in concurrent problem alcohol and illicit drug users: Cochrane review

To our greatest surprise, we found ourselves amidst a long thought-provoking discussion with the interested audience following our  presentations. This had to be cut off by a chair who was mindful of a long line-up of subsequent talks. I hope this wasn’t only a mere reflection of a hight need or interest in the proffesional community but also an acknowledgement of our expertise in conducting and presentig this research programme.

Following this positive reception of our research we resolved to focus more on quality, than quantity for our research endeavours in 2013; so that we can make for better candidates for the next year’s poster prizes and/or for publishers of the top drugs journal – The Addiction.

Visiting this event for the first time 2 years ago, I couldn’t pass without notice a heavy focus on medical aspects of addiction, e.g. medicines and treatment. That changed. This year, there were many presentations from the community/ practitioner crowd on topics unheard of at this meeting before (e.g. John Roche’s New drugs, new problems? Responding to club drugs in Leeds or Duncan Raistrick’s Payment by Results) – all attended by a number of attendees. The same – non-medicinalising – trend apperead in the conference tweets:

Excellent final talk at #SSA by Tim Leighton. Recovery is not new. Recovery movement = contemporary Temperance movement.
— Dr Vanessa Crawford (@addictionpsych) November 9, 2012

My second observation is about the symposium audience. Many new (young) faces appeared among the seasoned veterans of this conference. This influenced conference’s social programme too, as the conferring crowd quickly dispersed into their rooms following some modest dinner celebrations. Is the crushing hand of recession strengthening its grip and forcing addiction experts to work more – celebrate less? Or are we witnessing a cultural shift in the UK’s most established addiction meeting?