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Breaking Bad Habits

Translational Health

According to the Center for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics, more than 53,300 people died from overdoses of opioids in 2016. The number of deaths has been increasing year over year, and more than one-fourth of last year’s deaths can be attributed to prescription opioids. The first step to addressing this tragedy is understanding the factors that encourage a person to misuse medication. Dr. Ty Schepis of Texas State University’s Department of Psychology has made a career out of studying patterns of abuse and addiction.

Ty Schepis in room with sideboard
Dr. Ty Schepis - College of Applied Arts - Department of Psychology

 More than 53,300

people died from

overdoses of opioids in 2016.

empty prescription bottles

In 2017, Schepis received three grants from the National Institutes of Health concerning addiction. The two most recent of these, one targeting prescription misuse among adolescents and young adults and another looking at the same for older adults, are R01 grants: the largest offered by the NIH and the first R01 grants awarded to Texas State since 1995. The first grant was awarded in June and totals $572,757. The second, awarded in August, is worth $548,488. Using the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, originally called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Schepis and his partners are answering questions about the patterns and motives of misuse. The survey includes roughly 55,000 individuals and is considered to be nationally representative. Starting in 2015, the survey began asking new and better questions about misuse, including motives, the kinds of misuse individuals engage in, and if they have used medication and alcohol together in the last month. 

Currently Schepis is working with Sean Esteban McCabe from the University of Michigan. The two are using data from the 2015 and 2016 versions of the survey. The 2017 survey will be published soon, and 2018 is currently being collected. As those materials become available, the researchers will be able to build a more comprehensive picture of opioid abuse in America. There have already been two papers published based on the research, one at the Journal of Clinical Psychology and another at Pain. Other papers are being made ready for submission. Over the next few years the goal will be to continue to produce scientific publications and compare 2015 findings with those of 2016 and 2017.

Research reported here was supported by the National Institute On Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01DA043691. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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