When drinking can lead to serious problems for your brain: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center establishes chair for Addiction Medicine

August 16, 2006
CONTACT: Suzanna Cisneros Martinez, suzanna.martinez@ttuhsc.edu
(806) 743-2143

LUBBOCK – When is drinking a problem? Recently many Americans were exposed to the media frenzy of whether or not actor Mel Gibson has a drinking problem. Substance abuse, whether alcohol or other substances, can have major short- and long- term impact on the abuser’s life and those around them.

According to national studies by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, half of the U.S. population older than the age 12 drank alcohol in the past 30 days and 23 percent had engaged in binge drinking in that time period. In 2001, approximately 75,000 deaths were attributable to excessive alcohol use. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for people in the United States each year. Problems related to the excessive consumption of alcohol cost an estimated $185 billion annually.

With alcohol and other substance use disorders affecting so many, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has made addiction medicine a focus in the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Sciences by creating the Giles C. McCrary Endowed Chair in Addiction Medicine.

Gregory W. Schrimsher, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department was named as the Endowed Chair in Addiction Medicine. One focus of his work will be to assess the substance use treatment needs in the area, including rural counties in the area and to attempt to implement treatment programs to best meet these needs. His major area of research interest is the relation between alcohol and substance use and its short- and long- term impact on cognitive abilities and functioning.

“Cognitive abilities are affected by alcohol and substance use, and the size and duration of the effect depends on how often, how much and for how long someone has been using,” Schrimsher said. “These effects can be especially strong with regard to memory and attention. This endowed chair will allow us to examine the cognitive effects of substance use and how these effects impact our treatment efforts. Also, we will examine whether the effects can be reversed or whether they place people at risk for future problems such as dementia.”

Randolph B. Schiffer, M.D., chair of the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, said there is a great need to provide a clinical and research program in addiction medicine.

“There is a great complexity to the diagnosis and treatment of those suffering from addictive disorders. Dr. Schrimsher’s expertise, research and contributions to the field of addiction medicine will lead the way to find answers to important research questions for those suffering from addiction,” Schiffer said.

Schrimsher served as a staff psychologist at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson, MS and a clinical assistant professor in Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Houston. Additionally, he has a doctorate in neuroscience from the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Schrimsher has clinical experience in substance use disorder treatment in both hospital residential and community mental health intensive outpatient treatment including individual and group cognitive-behaviorally based treatments. This work includes extensive experience with patients with dual-diagnoses and multi-ethnic patient populations.