The Role of Higher Education in the Addiction Crisis



The Role of Higher Education in the Addiction Crisis

By James DiReda, LICSW, PhD

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To hear that we are currently experiencing a “crisis,” or “epidemic” when it comes to substance use/addiction probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone. One need not look very far to witness the damaging effects of these substances on those using them, and the families and communities they come from. Most cities and states, organizations, communities and families have felt first-hand the devastation of addiction. Regardless of which statistics you look at, the number of addiction-related deaths continues to grow, robbing us of our most precious resource, our youth. Everyone is affected by this issue in one way or another, and we need to come together to bring about change. 


If we are going to effectively address the problem of substance use/addiction, we need to understand the problem, which will require educated citizens and well-trained professionals and para-professionals. We will also need to come together to share our knowledge, experience, and ideas about the challenges faced, which is done by developing and hosting conferences and seminars aimed to do so, and learn from experts in this field. One such expert is Dr. Ruth Potee, who will be presenting at Anna Maria College’s Zecco Auditorium on March 19th at 4:30 pm. Dr. Potee is a well-known and highly respected physician, whose expertise in treating addiction and teaching style make her presentation dynamic and powerful as well as current and informative on all addiction-related issues, including vaping.


In keeping with our mission, Anna Maria College is well-positioned to be that place where stakeholders can come together to connect, learn, and share research and effective treatments as we work toward change. Our role as educators is to produce well-trained workers, who understand substance use/addiction and recovery, preparing them to enter the agencies and organizations who work with the addicted population and those affected by its collateral damage. Creating an environment where students from all disciplines can learn, practice and research issues around substance use/addiction is key to preparing the professionals needed in our community agencies. 

Since 2013 Anna Maria College has made the focus on substance use and addiction a top priority, and has developed a Minor in Addiction Studies, hosted conferences and guest speakers to address substance use and addiction issue, and is working toward developing an Addiction and Recovery Resource Center. The goal is to provide training and education, and conduct research on substance use/addiction.     


To attend Dr. Ruth Potee’s lecture on the Physiology of Addiction and the Effects of Drug-taking Behavior on the Brain, please register here. This event is funded by a grant from the Reliant Foundation.


Dr. DiReda holds a dual Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Work from Boston University, and a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Connecticut. He is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with over twenty-eight years of direct clinical experience in the field of mental health and addictions counseling. He has served as an advocate, treatment provider, researcher, and teacher working with individuals and families, schools, hospitals, treatment programs, jails, private and not-for-profit organizations around issues of mental health and substance use. He is a member of the Boards of Directors at AdCare Educational Institute, and the MA Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR). Dr. DiReda is an assistant professor of Social Work in the School of Professional Studies at Anna Maria College and is a founding partner at Lake Avenue Recovery in Worcester, MA.

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