MGH’s Dr. John Kelly talks opiates at S.A.F.E. coalition meeting

Dr. John Kelly, Harvard professor and Massachusetts General Hospital addiction expert, spoke at our second S.A.F.E. coalition meeting about the mechanisms of, and strategies for, combating and de-stigmatizing substance abuse disorders. You can view the video of his presentation by clicking on the image below.

We had a great turnout for the talk about addiction which Dr. Kelly noted is caused by several factors, including genetic predisposition and exposure to the drug itself. Drugs, Kelly said, can short-circuit the reward pathways of the brain and cause the release of dopamine, a chemical that causes pleasure. “(The pathways) developed to make sure we feed ourselves, stay alive, reproduce, engage with other people,” he said. “People tend to like the effect (of drugs), and people find it very hard to cope with the abnormal release (of dopamine).” The brain adapts to the high levels of dopamine by becoming less sensitive to it.

“When a person is addicted, they can’t sense the normal levels or reward,” he said. “This dysphoria means people find it extra hard to stop using the only thing they remember will help them.”

Dr. Kelly’s talk was followed by a panel discussion and audience engagement. The panel included:

  • Jonathan Cabezas, the Director of Services at Number 16 in Wakefield, MA;
  • Brooke, a 39 year old recovering addict whose opiate addiction started in 2003;
  • Jennifer Rowe, a Norfolk County ADA, who has spoken frequently about scope of the drug issues in Norfolk County, particularly concerning opioid abuse;
  • Amy Leone, a LMHC with clinical practices in Milford and Upton, who works with those struggling with addiction, in the path of recovery, or those effected by others substance addictions; and
  • Dan Lynch, President of Lynch Wellness and Recovery Foundation, who has more than 20 years of experience in the field of addiction.

It was a remarkable educational experience and helped increase awareness about addiction, and help put us on a pathway to finding a cure for this disease.

For the Milford Daily News report on the meeting, see For the Franklin Matters report which includes the PowerPoint slides, see

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