FSU experts available to comment on opioid crisis in America

Eugenia Millender, an associate professor in the FSU College of Nursing, addresses attendees during an opioid abuse prevention panel discussion on May 18. Three FSU colleges — Social Work, Medicine and Nursing — partnered with Allied Against Opioid Abuse to host the event.
Eugenia Millender, an associate professor in the FSU College of Nursing, addresses attendees during an opioid abuse prevention panel discussion on May 18. Three FSU colleges — Social Work, Medicine and Nursing — partnered with Allied Against Opioid Abuse to host the event.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States according to a recent report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. More specifically, the opioid crisis continues to plague families in the United States, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting as many as 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin has quadrupled. The CDC reported the numbers of opioids prescribed in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.

While the statistics may be startling, experts affiliated with Florida State University are studying issues regarding prevention, treatment and education and are available to comment on the following topics related to opioid and substance use:


Samantha Goldfarb, assistant professor, College of Medicine
Samantha.goldfarb@med.fsu.edu; (205) 910-4337
Goldfarb’s background is in public health, with specialized training in health care policy research relating to maternal and child health issues. She is particularly interested in understanding the impact of state health and drug policies on maternal and perinatal outcomes.

“One of the biggest barriers I think we face in the United States is that despite prevention, treatment and policy efforts, we are still surrounded by the stigma of substance abuse in this country. This is especially true for vulnerable, pregnant women who engage in substance abuse or are already addicted and most times don’t even know they’re pregnant.”


Jean Munn, associate professor, College of Social Work
jmunn@fsu.edu; (850) 644-9847
Munn is an expert on aging with particular expertise in gerontological social work research, specifically in the areas of long-term care, interdisciplinary health care teams and end of life care.

“Older adults actually have the perfect storm for opioid abuse. Older adults have many chronic conditions. They live a lot longer but don’t necessarily live comfortably. Because older adult bodies process medicine differently from the rest of the population, they are at higher risk of overdosing.”


Eugenia Millender, associate professor, College of Nursing
emillender@fsu.edu; (561) 603-5442
Millender is a psychiatric nurse practitioner and scientist. Her research interests include stress and the accumulation of trauma throughout an individual’s life that are often expressed through mental illness, substance abuse and chronic disease among minority and underserved populations. Millender works with community-based organizations to study the efficacy of culturally relevant mental health and substance abuse interventions in community and primary care settings to prevent mental disparities.

“Among many things, nurses are very good for educating. We take our time, we educate, we look at the person and whole community they come with. Individuals don’t come by themselves. They come with their own identified beliefs and cultural behaviors. It’s important for clinicians to treat the individual, their community and their beliefs.”


Amy Burdette, associate professor, Department of Sociology
aburdette@fsu.edu; (850) 644-1753
Burdette’s research investigates connections between religious involvement, neighborhood context and health. Her research has examined social variations in health and health behaviors at virtually every stage of the life from birth to old age. Much of her research has paid special attention to disadvantaged populations, including low-income urban mothers.

“Religion is a powerful social institution and socio-cultural force. Research consistently shows religious variations in health and well-being. Religious involvement can promote health by discouraging unhealthy behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking and by providing social support. Religious involvement can also undermine health by discouraging healthy behaviors like contraceptive use or by stigmatizing alternative forms of pain relief. People who are active within religious communities should consider the potential benefits and risks of diverse pain management strategies, including traditional pharmaceuticals and alternative treatments like cannabis.”


Ellen Piekalkiewicz, director, FSU Center for the Study and Promotion of Communities, Families and Children, College of Social Work
epiekalkiewicz@fsu.edu; (850) 644-3497

Piekalkiewicz has more than 30 years of experience in public policy, legislative and governmental affairs, disability rights, and substance abuse and mental health public policy development. She has studied the intersection between the criminal justice system and individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders, prescription drug abuse among the elderly, supportive housing, employment and health disparities.

“Opioids are very important in modern medicine. They have improved the quality of life particularly for people with cancer and acute pain. However, we must educate people that they shouldn’t just take that prescription because it’s part of the checkout process at hospitals after surgery. We must educate individuals to take charge and push for alternatives. Medical professionals have to be cautious in their prescribing so they don’t directly addict patients and don’t indirectly addict people by having excess pills in their medicine cabinets.”