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Looking Back at NAADAC 2023

I recently had the opportunity to attend the annual National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC) National Conference in Denver, Colorado - a seven-day conference held in-person for first time since the COVID-19 pandemic - on October 6th through 12th, 2023.

This conference, and others like it, is of vital importance in addressing issues related to substance misuse and its impact on individuals and society. Professionals representing the entire continuum of care were in attendance, including prevention specialists, educators, front-line clinicians, peer support specialists, administrators, and policymakers.

At this national conference, I was joined by over 1,000 others for what turned out to be a lively, action-packed event with a bustling exhibitors’ lounge, filled with an array of vendors from treatment providers and medical testing labs, to vending machines that dispensed naloxone, clean syringes, condoms, and testing strips in support of harm reduction efforts.

There was also a bookstore onsite offering the publications of presenters, as well as titles on supportive topics. Nearby I found numerous posters filled with information on a variety of relevant topics, often staffed by representatives happy to provide further insight to those stopping by.

During the main conference schedule, breakfast and lunch were served in the same vicinity as the exhibitors’ lounge, and adjacent to the main auditorium were morning and afternoon plenary speeches and expert panels. The plenary sessions and workshops featured a wide array of topics including:

  • Harm reduction

  • Medication-assisted recovery (MAR)

  • Gambling/gaming/sexual disorders

  • The cultural impact on development and treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs)

  • Alternative approaches to addressing SUDs and co-occurring disorders

  • Addressing trauma and pain (including the use of hallucinogens, EMDR, and other non-traditional approaches)

  • Practical efforts to utilize resources and find ways to fund the population seeking treatment

Many of the presenters emphasized the value of incorporating Peer Specialists in clinical, case management, and community settings.

The NAADAC hosts were clearly experienced in managing multiple affairs, and ample space was available to pull this major event off with an intimate feel. Over the course of the stay, there were multiple opportunities to engage in conversation with other attendees and to network via workshops, exhibits, and panel discussions, as well as by attending the early morning or after-hours events which included yoga, group walks, movie screenings, auctions, sponsored gatherings, and recovery support meetings.

Throughout the days I attended the convention, I had numerous encounters with students, presenters, panel members, NAADAC staff, and exhibitors from around the country. Some I will continue to correspond with, some I will collaborate with, and some I plan to recommend as presenters for the next NJPN Annual Conference.

On May 16 & 17, 2024, NJPN will host its 24th annual conference in person for the first time since the pandemic began.

Early bird registration is now open for the 2024 NJPN Annual Conference, which will be returning to the Atlantic City Convention Center. The upcoming two-day event will feature a slate of workshops from experts representing prevention, treatment, and recovery support, as well as keynote speakers, sponsor exhibitors, and a welcome reception on day one.

For more information and to register today, visit the following link!

Tony Polizzi is a dually-licensed counselor and certified supervisor with over 20 years' experience as a clinician, supervisor, teacher, and trainer. For the past 17 years, he has been a clinical trainer for the New Jersey Prevention Network, providing courses on a wide range of topics related to substance misuse and co-occurring disorders.

Tony has taught thousands of students working towards their certified alcohol and drug counseling (CADC), licensed clinical alcohol and drug counseling (LCADC), and certified peer recovery specialist certifications, as well as specialty classes on subjects related to supervision, culture, and emerging trends in treatment of substance use disorders. Tony's specialty courses often focus on specific demographics (adolescents, older Americans, criminal justice populations, and others). He also supervises LCADC clinician interns and maintains a small private practice.

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