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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Academics & Research

Scientist sees stress, substance abuse similarities

The connection between stress and substance abuse is obvious, but whether it is that stress leads to substance abuse or substance abuse leads to stress has yet to be determined.

Ezemenari M. Obasi, an associate professor in counseling psychology and director of the Hwemudua Addictions and Health Disparities Lab at UH has been awarded $2.5 million to fund a study in understanding the correlation between stress and substance abuse. The funds will also help uncover the effect the correlation has within the African-American community of Southwest Texas.

“This is a five-year study that is designed for us to go into the community and try to learn about the relationship that stress might have with varied substances,” Obasi said.

The $2.5 million, awarded by the National Institute of Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse will be used to fund pay for faculty and graduate students that work on the project, as well as travel costs, laboratory supplies and equipment.

Around 350 African-American individuals in the Southwest Texas area between the age of 18 and 25 will be tested. The test will not necessarily focus around illegal drugs but will include the effects from those who suffer from addictions to caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol.

Obasi will be working with two other researchers at the University of Georgia, one at Emory University and a small handful of graduate students. Despite this, it remains primarily a Houston-based project, and its research will draw from members of the community.

“I think there are communities that disproportionately suffer from various negative health outcomes. For me, I thought it was important to try and understand what mechanisms we (give to those communities) with this (topic),” Obasi said.

“In particular, (African-Americans) are often ignored because people don’t necessarily have access to them. One of the nice things of being in Houston is the diversity of our community, so I thought it’d be a great idea to include them with research addressed at their issues.”

Obasi said he hopes to find which experience puts African-Americans at risk for stress and substance abuse. The research process will include collecting data on tests subjects’ home environments and controlled stress paradigms with assessments every three months.

Data collection will begin this summer, and the research as a whole is expected to conclude around December 2017.

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