Penn State awarded federal grant for studying opioid use disorder

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently awarded Penn State a five-year, $842,000 grant to study opioid use disorder among criminal justice-involved (CJI) women.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, between 1980 and 2009, the arrest rate for drug possession or use for women tripled, making women among the fastest-growing group of incarcerated individuals.

Despite this, drug interventions and criminal justice behavioral services continue to be male-focused. The researchers hope to develop intervention strategies that reduce opioid-use disorder among CJI women in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs.

“There is a shortage of effective interventions that link CJI women to needed drug use treatment such as MAT programs,” Abenaa Jones, assistant professor of human development and family studies and the principal investigator on the project, said. “Consequently, continued substance use, recidivism in the criminal justice system, and other adverse outcomes are prevalent among these women. This research is critical because of not only improving the health and social outcomes for these women but to also reduce the societal costs of incarceration and substance use dependence.”

The researchers will collaborate with criminal justice professionals and CJI women MAT providers to identify the barriers to HIV-related risk behaviors and opioid-use cessation and examine violence toward CJI women. Using this information, the researchers will develop a gender-specific and trauma-informed intervention.

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