Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Experts gather at U-M for conference on sex, gender and psychoactive substances

More than 50 researchers and scholars from across the country gathered at U-M this week for a conference about sex and gender in relation to the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

The conference, "Sex/Gender and the Use of Psychoactive Substances," took place Tuesday and Wednesday at the School of Social Work. It was attended by experts from various fields including history, neurobiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, psychiatry, psychology, public health, social work, substance abuse and women's studies.

The meeting focused on crosscutting issues and themes in the study of sex/gender related to psychoactive substances. Participants included faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and undergraduates, as well as representatives from clinical practice, community organizations and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The first day of the conference focused, in part, on the delineation of different terminology and methodologies used when studying the topic. Participants examined what is known and not known about the subject, as well as current controversies in the field and how they might be addressed in research, clinical practice and policy.

The topics of normative drug use, problem drug use, recovery and relapse were examined, with presentations and small-group discussions that considered risk/protective factors, co-occurring issues, subgroup and life course issues, epigenetics and other topics.

The second day included a debriefing on themes from the first day, identification of questions not yet addressed, discussion of crosscutting themes and controversies, and formation of working groups to address various themes and issues after the conference.

Conference participants organized into working groups on the following areas:

• Policy/science research issues (priorities: pregnancy, criminal justice).

• Better research models (improving animal and human clinical and epidemiological studies).

• Promoting communication across science and feminism disciplines.

• Early trauma, development and life-course issues (risks and protective factors, what to do with them).

Leadership for planning and development of the conference was provided by Jill Becker, Kyla Day, Michelle McClellan and Beth Glover Reed of U-M, and Mark Greenwald of Wayne State University.

Support for the conference was provided by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Center for Advancing Research and Solutions for Society, the Substance Abuse Research Center, and the School of Social Work.