Keith Humphreys, PhD, on substance abuse in Iraq

A year ago, when Keith Humphreys, PhD, was asked to help rebuild Iraq's mental health care system, he wasn't sure he was the right person for the job. Although an expert in addiction, Humphreys spoke no Arabic and knew little about Iraq, let alone the Middle East, having never even traveled there.

But after meeting in London with the lead mental health advisor to the Iraqi government, Humphreys, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who is also on staff at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, was persuaded to give it a try.

Humphreys is now the lead American addiction expert in a team that includes government officials from U.S., U.K. and Iraqi agencies. He collaborated with a group of Iraqi psychiatrists, pharmacists, nurses, judges and religious leaders during a week-long meeting in Jordan last March; later in the spring, he helped provide training to a smaller group of Iraqi doctors in England.

In early September, Humphreys will be in Turkey for a region-wide conference on addiction treatment and he is hoping to visit Iraq in the spring. Medical Center Report writer Michelle L. Brandt recently sat down with Humphreys, to discuss the crisis in mental health care in Iraq and his work with the country.

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