WEBINAR: Addiction Matters for I/DD and Brain Injury: A Workshop About Substance Use Disorders and Treatment

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 9:30am to 11:30am


In response to providers’ requests for information about dealing with substance use disorders (SUD) amongst individuals served, we are providing this training on the timely topic of SUD. Dr. Reif will address substance use issues, especially opioid misuse, in persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD). The training will provide an overview of the issue, information specific to I/DD, and lessons learned that other areas such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), that could be useful to the I/DD field.

Purpose Background

The Intersecting Research on Opioid Misuse Addiction and Disability Services (INROADS) Project led by Dr. Sharon Reif at The Heller School, aims to understand how and why people with disabilities misuse opioids, help them access treatment, recover from opioid use disorder, and move toward their individually defined life goals. Anecdotally, professionals in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly encountering issues related to addiction amongst their clients. For instance, traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common among people who have a substance use disorder. Over 20% of non-institutionalized adults in the United States have had at least one TBI with a loss of consciousness, and this estimate more than doubles among people with a substance use disorder (SUD). Individuals with co-occurring SUD and mental health problems are even more likely to have a history of TBI. The increased vulnerability for misuse and addiction to other substances (e.g., alcohol) among people with TBI suggests the same may be true with opioids.

In the midst of the current opioid crisis, we appreciate the emerging recognition by state agencies, such as the Department of Development Services, of the interconnection between brain injuries and addiction and the unique and often unmet needs of this population. Indeed, recent studies have helped identify multiple factors affecting increased risk for substance use disorders (SUDs) following TBI. These factors include age at the time of injury, repetitive injury and TBI severity, neurocircuits, neurotransmitter systems, neuroinflammation, and sex differences (Merkel et al., 2017).

Dr. Reif's research on the relationship between developmental disabilities and SUD is both timely and illustrative.

Intended Audience

Program Directors, Direct Support Professionals

Learning Objectives

Participants will gain the following information at this training:

1. Understanding of the broader issue of addiction and how it relates to individuals with I/DD;
2. Understanding of the specific issues related to addiction and substance use disorders amongst the I/DD population; and
3. Understanding of the lessons learned from other areas of research and practice-such as traumatic brain injury (TBI)-and how they can be useful to the field of I/DD.

About the Speaker

Sharon Reif, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, Deputy Director of its Institute for Behavioral Health, and Associate Director of its National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) doctoral training program. Dr. Reif has over 25 years of experience conducting health services research related to substance use treatment, focused on the treatment system, what happens to clients during and after treatment, and how that relates to the providers who treat them. Dr. Reif has been PI or co-investigator on numerous health services research studies, including medications for treating addiction; systems approaches to improve treatment for opioid use disorders and other substance use disorders; access to behavioral health services; the role of incentives in driving quality; the impact of health reform and parity on behavioral health service delivery; and the intersection of substance use disorders with other disabilities. Her research interests extend to wellness and to the intersection of chronic medical problems, including pain, with alcohol and drug use and misuse; stigma; and recovery from addiction. Dr. Reif is the Deputy Director of the Brandeis/Harvard NIDA Center to Improve System Performance of Substance Use Disorder Treatment. She teaches courses on research ethics for doctoral students and behavioral health for undergraduates. Dr. Reif has a Ph.D. in social policy from the Heller School, where she was also the recipient of a training grant in alcohol health services research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. She received the Heller School Mentoring Award in 2017.

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