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Complex Trauma and Addiction: Impact and Resolution

The memory of trauma is often suppressed through excessive use of drugs or alcohol.  However, this pain-filled inner world will eventually reveal itself when life becomes unmanageable.

A group of nationally acclaimed clinicians will track trauma developing from the womb beginning with neonatal abstinence.  The Office of Children’s Services will describe their parameters guiding family intervention when parents are addicted.

The changes seen on fMRI in the adult brains of those who have experienced childhood trauma is then presented.

Essential insights and foundational truths about wounds, healing, and healers as depicted in stories from classical antiquity, Jewish and Christian holy days, and Native American ceremonies are introduced.

Finally, the trauma of professional training with its practice of self-neglect as a recipe for addiction is explored.

Friday, August 26, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Providence Cancer Center – 3851 Piper St. Providence Alaska Medical Center, U Tower, Room 2281 Anchorage, AK 99508


Paula J. Colescott, MD

All addictive substances increase the level of dopamine in the brain, establishing and transforming neural networks. The addicted brain has been changed.

Travis Erickson, MS, MBA

Keeping children safe amid caregiver substance abuse: The role and practice of child protection. The most common type of maltreatment in Alaska is neglect, often fueled by substance abuse.

James M. Fitterling, PhD

Empirically supported treatment of comorbid PTSD and substance use disorder.

Christopher La Tourette La Riche, MD

Early life trauma can cause long-term and persisting changes to the brain and brain chemistry which can be measured and imaged, even decades after the childhood events. The presence (or absence) of childhood trauma can increase later-life vulnerability to addiction and mood disorders and also appears to influence which treatments are most effective. Taking a careful trauma history in children and adults is essential for any provider of health care.

Evelyn Rider, MD

Substance abuse in pregnancy is a growing epidemic throughout the state, nation, and the world. Tobacco use exacerbates all the complications associated with substance abuse in pregnancy. In 2015, opioid prescription medication was reported as the second most commonly used/abused substance in pregnancy, resulting in 1 baby born every 25 minutes affected by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome; increased from 1 baby born every 60 minutes reported in 2012.

Gregory Skipper, MD

Physicians and other health professionals experience trauma in their training. Overwork, depersonalization, patient deaths, shaming and belittlement, and to top it off, we are often encouraged to repress our own feelings. Some of these traumas can fuel pathologic conditions such as addictions, depression, anxiety disorders, and even suicide. It is best if we expose these traumas and deal with them in healthier ways.

Sherry Young, PhD

Stories and rituals from various ages and cultural traditions provide a framework that suggests a paradigm shift in Western Culture from the view that scars are ugly and that emotional and spiritual wounds are shameful. This presentation challenges medical and behavioral health providers to connect the dots in the phenomenon of their patient’s symptoms and look for underlying patterns that can lead to early detection and healing.

After completion of the symposium, participants will:

  1. Be familiar with Neonatal Withdrawal.
  2. Describe the interventions of Office of Children Services (OCS) in drug-dependent mothers.
  3. Identify the risk of professionals for developing substance dependence.
  4. Discuss the long-term brain changes as seen on fMRI, persisting years after childhood trauma.
  5. Describe brain changes that occur in the setting of substance dependence.
  6. Discuss trauma healing from a philosophical perspective.
  7. Conceptualize impact of complex trauma on historically traumatized groups including indigenous populations.
  8. Become familiar with empirical interventions that address the phenomenon of PTSD informed by a rich literature base from the military experience.