Addiction can take a multitude of different forms. In the loosest sense of the word, the most common college student addictions could be coffee or Netflix. But for too many, addiction takes a darker form of drugs or alcohol, both of which can be found on campus. It is because of its prevalence in society and at Gustavus that this year’s Nobel Conference is entitled Addiction: Exploring the Science and Experience of an Equal Opportunity Condition.
A variety of factors are considered when the faculty decide the topic of each Nobel Conference. According to Scott Bur, Director of the Nobel Conference, “We look for things where science and society tend to intersect.”
Peg O’Connor, a Professor in Philosophy and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies, suggested addiction as this year’s topic.
“The number of people in the U.S. who are addicted is so staggering. It also relates to our being a college where we have students who are addicted,” O’Connor said.
Bur agreed about addiction’s importance, saying, “This is something everyone can kind of get behind.”
Addiction stretches across many sectors of society including politics, public health, and the legal system. Nobel will narrow the topic specifically to substance abuse.
“The number of people in the U.S. who are addicted is so staggering. It also relates to our being a college where we have students who are addicted.”
“It is such a complicated set of phenomena that no one discipline has the answer or the only approach,” O’Connor said.
The 51st Nobel Conference promises to engage these different sectors by inviting diverse speakers.
The first day of the Conference will open with neuropsychiatrist Eric Kandel, 2000 Nobel laureate and medical sociologist Denise Kandel, who coined the phrase “gateway drug,” and medical sociologist Sheigla Murphey.
Eric Kandel’s presentation will focus primarily on memory and the relationship between substance abuse and neurotransmitters, according to O’Connor.
The second presentation will feature Denise Kandel discussing the ‘Gateway Hypothesis’ with Dr. Eric Kandel.
“The idea behind that is that nicotine primes your brain to feel a bigger effect from other drugs like cocaine,” Bur said. “If you smoke, you are more likely to feel a bigger effect from cocaine use.”
“It is such a complicated set of phenomena that no one discipline has the answer or the only approach.”
Murphey will finish the day with a discussion on the impact of drugs on women and nonmedical prescription use. The panel discussion will comprise of those who encounter addicts in their professions, such as Detective Matt Grochow and Honorable Judge Allison Krehbiel.
Day two of Nobel will feature with Neuroscientist Carl Hart, Philosopher Owen Flanagan, and Developmental Neuroscientist Marc Lewis.
According to Bur, Hart will shake things up by challenging the stereotypical image of addicts and explain how structural inequality leads to drug abuse. He will also dispute the idea that drugs always lead to tragedy and cannot be used temporarily during hard times.
Flanagan will dive into the life of an addict. He plans to explain how much becoming an addict is a choice or a disease and the sense of responsibility addicts can bear.
O’Connor said that Lewis is expected to argue that addiction is not a disease, but a matter of desire and attachment. The closing panel discussions will debate the best treatment options for recovering addicts.
This year’s Nobel Conference promises to offer interesting and broadened insights about a topic relevant at Gustavus.
“You would be hard pressed to find someone [at Gustavus] who hasn’t somehow been affected by or worried about addiction,” O’Connor said.
For all students, Nobel is an event they cannot miss.
First-year Grace Pederson is excited to attend, saying, “It’ll be interesting to hear someone else’s view on something a lot students struggle with or think about.”
“The idea behind that is that nicotine primes your brain to feel a bigger effect from other drugs.”
The doors for the Nobel Conference open at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 6, and the closing lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 7.