By WVUA 23 Reporter Kayla Smith

Two University of Alabama faculty members will begin research on opioid use disorder treatments. Mercy Mumba, Ph.D. and Rebecca Allen. Ph.D. will receive a combined total of more than $3.8 million.

The doctors intend to train psychologists to combat opioid use disorder in underserved populations.

Their research teams will study the effect of mindfulness relapse prevention, a process that increases self-awareness of choice, and peer support on continued sobriety and engagement in medication-assisted treatment.

“Trying to find treatment options that are not only going to work, but are going to help people sustain their recovery, is very important,” Mumba said.

“I think that the University of Alabama receiving this money plays a huge role because of all of our connections with our community partners and being able to achieve those goal that we have.”

The studies will include people from Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties.

Both doctors say that they are committed to community engaged research.

“One of the things that we are interested in is sort of identifying the profiles that differ in terms of men, women, rural-dwelling people, urban people,” Allen said.

The doctors’ research seeks to identify characteristics in people that make them more susceptible to continued substance abuse.

“How do people get at risk and how do we help them get into recovery and maintain it?” Allen said.

According to Mumba, the types of commonly abused substances have changed through time. Morphine and hydrocodone addiction became heroin and fentanyl reliance.

The studies will also examine polysubstance abuse, or a disorder in which an individual misuses three or more substances without a preference for one particular substance. Many opioid abusers also struggle with alcoholism.

Mumba said that many Alabamians struggle with opioid use disorder because of their lack of access to care. According to Mumba, many counties in Alabama do not have enough facilities that offer mental health and substance abuse treatment to combat the problem.

Mumba and Allen said that they hope their research will help people access mental health and substance abuse treatments.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama ranks as the state with the highest opioid prescribing rate in the nation. In 2017, there were more opioid prescriptions than people in the state of Alabama.

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