WSU Research Sheds Light on Substance Use Disorders and Addiction

Examining substance use and alternatives to misuse..
Illustration by Paitoonpati

A recent feature in the Spring 2024 Washington State Magazine highlights the research and scholarship of Washington State University (WSU) College of Nursing faculty, Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Marian Wilson, and Ekaterina Burduli who are at the forefront of addressing one of the most urgent and complex public health crises of our time: substance use and addiction. This research underscores WSU’s commitment to making an impact on public health outcomes.

The article, authored by Larry Clark, ‘94, describes the dire situation across the United States and specifically in Washington state, where 17,502 residents lost their lives to drug overdoses between 2007 and 2021. The alarming rise in opioid-related deaths, particularly involving fentanyl, has led to a heightened focus on public health issues surrounding substance misuse.

Leading the charge in interdisciplinary research is Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Executive Vice Chancellor at WSU Spokane and a professor in the College of Nursing. Barbosa-Leiker, along with Burduli, WSU College of Nursing Assistant Professor, have been assessing mothers, infants, and healthcare providers to enhance care for women with opioid use disorders. The research delves into the challenges faced by pregnant women and new mothers, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive support system.

Barbosa-Leiker shared powerful insight from participants. One participant stated, “I was one of those women that was homeless and pregnant and feeling helpless and hopeless. Having a support team has helped me tremendously. And that includes my treatment and my family and loved ones, friends that are sober. And my kids, of course.”

This disease does not discriminate. We really need an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, Executive Vice Chancellor, WSU Health Sciences Spokane

Ekaterina Burduli, WSU College of Nursing Assistant Professor, focuses on developing and testing novel behavioral mHealth interventions for perinatal women with substance use disorders, collaborating closely with Barbosa-Leiker. Meanwhile, Marian Wilson, a WSU College of Nursing Associate Professor, leads efforts to identify non-medicinal approaches to manage chronic pain, contributing significantly to the interdisciplinary research.

The Program of Excellence in Addictions Research (PEAR) at WSU, initiated in 2006 by John Roll, Vice Dean for Research at the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, takes a holistic approach to understand, treat, and prevent addictions. PEAR Director Sterling McPherson and College of Medicine professor Michael McDonell are pioneering evidence-based therapies, including contingency management – a highly effective behavioral therapy rewarding patients for sobriety.

The WSU research extends beyond traditional boundaries, exploring co-addiction, technology-assisted interventions, and addressing the unique challenges faced by women with substance use disorders. The magazine serves as a comprehensive source of information on the ongoing efforts at WSU to combat the complex issues of substance use and addiction.