Summer School course on 'Addiction’

My network has broadened. All thanks to Dynamics of Youth!

This summer, Dynamics of Youth will be organising three summer school courses. What do they offer the students and who is organising them? This time, we talk to dr. Heidi Lesscher, a neurobiologist at the Faculty of Veterinary Science and coordinator of the summer school course on ‘Addiction’.

'Through teaching, I meet colleagues from other disciplines more often. This way we get to work together more closely.'

How did this summer school course come about?

‘We wanted to bring together people from different fields of expertise who work towards learning more about addiction. We wanted to include both research (Lesscher's research on adolescents and alcohol, for example) and teaching activities. While joint research activities depend on research grants, teaching in this sense is a more stable factor.

Through our teaching, we meet more often and get to work together more closely. Through sharing expertise on addiction from various fields of expertise, such as neurobiology, pharmacy, social sciences, medicine and history, we created the ‘Addiction’ summer school course.’

What does the summer school course look like?

Jongens met flesjes bier

‘The course lasts five days, from 27 to 31 August, 2018. The programme is very varied. There is one day that we zoom in on addiction issues. What are the numbers? And what do we know about the history of addiction? We also have a day that focuses on adolescence. What, for instance, are the risk factors in adolescence with regard to the use of substances and behavioural issues, such as gaming?

Obviously we also have a day about neurobiology, my own field of expertise, when we will look deeper at addiction mechanisms. Which brain parts are involved? And how do addictive substances change our brain? Another day will focus on cognition and have the participants practise with neurocognitive tasks. The participants will also conduct fieldwork and have other people, or each other, take part in tasks, e.g. in a pub or in a student house.

In the afternoons we ask students to do an assignment. For instance, a practical assignment that will make it clear that addiction issues are wider than just the clinical practice, from psychotherapy to medication. It constitutes a broad problem that demands a broad approach. It is not just about the addict but also about municipal authorities, the occupancy rate in hospitals and emergency mental services, just to name a few.'

And we have invited psychiatrist Wim van den Brink to speak during the week. He is an expert in the field of pharmaco-therapy and addiction and, as such, he is an essential part of this course! 

Who should be interested in this summer school course?

‘That’s what is so good about it, as it combines various fields of expertise, the course provides a wide picture of the field of addiction and is, therefore, of interest to a wide audience. Last year, the course attracted clinical professionals working with addicts such as psychologists and psychiatrists, as well as fundamental scientists, pharmacy and biology students and PhDs.’

Why is the summer school concept so successful?

‘In the summer, people have more time to focus on what interests them outside of their regular scope. The participants work closely together and form a tight group. Last year, some participants were even tearful when saying their goodbyes. I think it is the combination of fun and learning that makes the summer school an attractive concept to take part in.’ 

USPC summerschool

As a researcher, you are active within the strategic theme of Dynamics of Youth. What does this bring you?

‘Partly through organising the summer school course and partly through my involvement in the strategic theme of Dynamics of Youth, I am in contact with people from outside of my own specific field of expertise. In my case, it has led to concrete new projects, e.g. with colleagues from social sciences, from the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital as well as with the addiction clinics Novadic Kentron and Jellinek. Via Dynamics of Youth, I have broadened my network. Sometimes even far outside of my own comfort zone but inspiring nonetheless!'

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