40 years of addiction treatment at Mayo Clinic

March 05, 2014

Terry D. Schneekloth, M.D. and Robert M. Morse, M.D. Terry D. Schneekloth, M.D. and Robert M. Morse, M.D.

Terry D. Schneekloth, M.D., presents Robert M. Morse, M.D., with the Founders Award in recognition of his pioneering work in addiction treatment.

In September 2013, Mayo Clinic held its fifth Frontiers of Addiction Treatment conference in Rochester, Minn. The two-day meeting, which highlighted advances and current issues in the field, coincided with Mayo's 40th anniversary of addiction treatment.

More than 200 people attended the anniversary celebration, including Robert M. Morse, M.D., an emeritus professor of psychiatry and founding director of Mayo Clinic Addiction Services, who was honored for his groundbreaking work in the treatment of alcoholism and other addictive disorders.

"Dr. Morse developed a therapeutic model that addressed the psychiatric and medical disorders that often co-occur with substance abuse," says psychiatrist Terry D. Schneekloth, M.D. "It's a model that is increasingly emulated today, but 40 years ago it was a profoundly novel approach." Dr. Morse and longtime colleague, Joseph Davis, Ph.D., exemplify the fruitful partnership between psychology and psychiatry at Mayo Clinic as well as an ongoing commitment to advancing understanding of addictive disorders.

Building on notable developments in genetics over the last 20 years, Mayo established the Samuel C. Johnson Genomics of Addictions Research Program, with the long-term goals of predicting, treating and preventing alcoholism and other chemical dependencies. Studies also are underway to identify alcohol-dependent patients who may benefit from new pharmacologic agents, broaden understanding of the neurobiology of addiction, and investigate the effect of co-occurring psychiatric disorders on alcoholism vulnerability and recovery.

Another change in the last decade was a transition from inpatient addiction treatment to a 30-day residential program that allows patients, many of them successful, highly functioning professionals, personal independence within a supportive structure.

"We are very pleased with the feedback from patients and their families about benefits from our program and their successful outcomes in maintaining abstinence. For the past two years, we've had a nearly continuous waiting list for program admission," Dr. Schneekloth says. "Our understanding of substance abuse has changed significantly over the past four decades, but we remain committed to Dr. Morse's original goal of providing innovative, highly individualized care in a respectful environment."