UGA professor studies link between stress, drug use vulnerability in African Americans

January 13, 2010 by Genevieve di Leonardo

( -- University of Georgia counseling psychology professor Ezemenari M. Obasi believes that the interaction of the environment and one’s genetic makeup can increase drug use vulnerability in rural African Americans.

Obasi has received a two-year $471,683 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to conduct research that examines the link between stress and the risk of among rural African Americans.

“African American drug use and abuse behaviors are often characterized by oversimplified models that are rooted in research studies that rarely include them,” said Obasi, a Fellow in UGA’s Institute of Behavioral Research and an assistant professor in the College of Education’s department of counseling and human development services.

There are a wide range of risk factors related to drug addiction, from , personal history and genetic disposition to environmental stressors, said Obasi. He questions whether those risk factors are universal, predictors of all people or group-specific.In this study, he will investigate the possibility that is a risk factor experienced by African Americans.

Such stressors experienced by African Americans residing in a rural community include low socioeconomic status, educational attainment and experiences of discrimination.Counter to popular beliefs, African Americans have a very low drug use rate in comparison to other ethnic groups. Unfortunately, they tend to disproportionately suffer from the negative consequences associated with drug use—including cancers, organ failure, contraction of HIV/AIDS, diminished mental health and treatment in the .

The study will look at two main questions including whether one’s interacts with environmental variables to affect physiological responses to and whether stress dysregulation—the inability of the body to return to a normal state after it experiences stress—predicts drug-related attitudes, craving and history of drug use.

Participants will be recruited from rural counties throughout the state of Georgia.Some of the measured variables will include genotype, hormones, autonomic nervous system responses (heart rate variability and skin conductance), chronic environmental stressors, implicit drug-related cognitions, drug craving and drug use history.

The study will ultimately initiate a multidisciplinary program of research aimed at investigating the impact of the relationship between genetic makeup and environment on drug use vulnerability.According to Obasi, such research is needed in order to inform theory, research, prevention and intervention efforts aimed at the elimination of health disparities that disproportionately impact the African-American community.

The Hwemudua Alcohol and Health Disparities Laboratory, an experimental laboratory developed by Obasi and used to explore the biological, psychological and social pathways concerning the intersection of alcohol use/abuse and health disparities impacting Africans/African Americans residing in the United States, will serve as the setting for this research.

Obasi is working on a research team that was recently awarded a five-year, $5.9 million Core Center of Excellence grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to examine the ways genetic tendencies combine with family and community environments to predict drug use and abuse and risky sexual behavior among children, adolescents and young adults. The team is headed by Gene H. Brody, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Child and Family Development in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017
If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among US girls, study says

November 21, 2017
Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

Car, stroller, juice: Babies understand when words are related

November 20, 2017
The meaning behind infants' screeches, squeals and wails may frustrate and confound sleep-deprived new parents. But at an age when babies cannot yet speak to us in words, they are already avid students of language.

Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

November 20, 2017
A groundbreaking Loyola Medicine study suggests that a simple 15-minute electrocardiogram could help a physician determine whether a patient has major depression or bipolar disorder.

Non-fearful social withdrawal linked positively to creativity

November 20, 2017
Everyone needs an occasional break from the social ramble, though spending too much time alone can be unhealthy and there is growing evidence that the psychosocial effects of too much solitude can last a lifetime.

Cultural values can be a strong predictor of alcohol consumption

November 20, 2017
Countries with populations that value autonomy and harmony tend to have higher average levels of alcohol consumption than countries with more traditional values, such as hierarchy and being part of a collective. This new ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.