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Groundbreaking scientific discoveries about the brain continue to revolutionize our understanding of alcohol and drug addiction, and improve our ability to prevent and treat addiction. Today, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Repeated drug use results in changes to both the structure and function of the brain, and can lead to long lasting and harmful behaviors in people who abuse drugs.

The good news is that with treatment, recovery from addiction is possible, but we all know that prevention is the best medicine. Therefore, it was only fitting that U.S. Journal Training and the Institute for Integral Development chose brain imaging specialist and bestselling author Dr. Daniel Amen to kick off the 31st Annual Training Institute on Behavioral Health and Addictive Disorders conference on Jan. 25 in Clearwater, Fla. Dr. Amen, a child and adult psychiatrist, is the CEO and medical director of Amen Clinics, Inc., which specializes in the use of brain imaging technology for use in clinical practices, with offices in Newport Beach and Fairfield, Calif., Tacoma, Wash. and Reston, Va.

Dr. Amen’s opening discussion, which encompassed material presented in his widely popular PBS special, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” was so well received that he again filled seats in his afternoon workshop, “Magnificent Mind at Any Age.” Dr. Amen’s no-nonsense approach to a healthy brain include incorporating a healthy diet, exercise and a daily workout for your brain in which you strive to learn something new every day.  Dr. Amen also explained the importance of protecting your brain from physical damage and early screening for brain disorders, particularly if you have experienced any brain trauma, suffer from mental health disorders such as depression or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or have a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Conference attendees also were able to hear from some of the nation’s leading experts in the treatment of addictive and behavioral health disorders, including Dr. Marv Seppala, who discussed the ongoing issues surrounding prescription drug abuse.

Some of the key speakers at the conference included renowned family addiction specialist and author Claudia Black, PhD, who held workshops that focused on helping partners of sex addicts and chronic loss and abandonment that arise from living with addicts. In a special evening workshop, Stefanie Carnes, PhD, discussed assessment and treatment strategies for cybersex addicts. Don Meichenbaum, PhD, held workshops on trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and discussed the guidelines for effective interventions.

The conference even featured comedian Mark Lundholm, creator of the DVD series, Humor in Treatment. Other speakers included Bill O’Hanlon, LCSW, Mark Sanders, LCSW, Naelys Diaz, PhD, Gail Horton, PhD, Jan Parker, PhD, Roland Fleck, EdD, Michael Demask, PhD, Ryan Van Cleave, PhD, Reid Wilson, PhD, Margot Escott, LCSW, Ralph Carson, PhD and Mary Bellofatto, LMHC.

Fortunately, for those of you who were unable to attend the conference, there will be another opportunity to see Dr. Dan Amen at US Journal Training’s Western Conference on Behavioral Health and Addictive Disorders Conference, June 17-20 in beautiful Newport Beach, Calif. For more information on this and other upcoming events, please visit www.usjt.com.

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