Schuylkill nursing professor researches impact of opioid addiction on families

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SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — Marianne Adam, associate teaching professor in the College of Nursing at Penn State Schuylkill, as been an asset to the Penn State nursing community, educating future nurses while researching substantial health issues ranging from palliative care, diabetes, and her current focus — the opioid epidemic.

The nation’s opioid epidemic has become an ever-present public health concern that plagues our communities. In 2017, Pennsylvania was ranked 3rd in the nation for deaths due to drug overdose, having an estimated economic impact of $1 trillion.

The magnitude of this issue has spurred many to take action, including Penn State. In early 2019, the University hosted its first summit on the opioid epidemic, attracting almost 200 researchers, practitioners and educators from across the Penn State community, including Adam.

Adam developed an interest in the opioid epidemic when her local newspapers began reporting on overdoses in nearby schools and the impact on youth in the community. With college-age children of her own and concern for her community, she said she felt personally invested and obligated to help be a part of the solution.

“In 2016 the initial Community Based Research Network conference was held, and the focus of the initiative was to support nursing faculty that were interested in research," said Adam. "We were charged with identifying stakeholders and potential research partners in their communities while simultaneously the opioid crisis was hitting the county I live in. It was in my community, impacting local school districts.”

Through funding from the Penn State Social Sciences Research Institute (SSRI), Adam was able to launch her newest research project, "Families Forging a Path to Treatment for Opioid Addiction." The project’s main focus is to better understand the perspectives of the affected individual’s family. The research aims to provide pivotal information about family members’ efforts to support their loved one, the resources they accessed, barriers to care, and challenges to consider when developing programs and policies.

“The person in active addiction has to be ready for treatment; there’s a critical window from when the individual says they are ready and when treatment can actually be arranged," said Adams. "The goal is to develop a novel intervention strategy that family members can access while they’re looking for treatment and help make the transition more seamless.”

Methodology for the project builds on qualitative  data from a prior study, which investigated the lived experience of family members with an opioid-addicted loved one. The current research project will utilize surveys to examine family member status, treatment and recovery strategies, care of minors, and information and media sources accessed. Survey questions ask participants to share recommendations to healthcare providers and advice for other families impacted by this disorder.

Adam said she aims to better understand individual and family experiences while developing strategies to support the family, which in turn, can help the affected individual. Her personal interest and commitment to the epidemic drives her to help make a tangible change in affected communities, transforming treatment roadblocks for willing individuals with a substance use disorder and their families.

Those interested in participating in this research project may access the consent form and survey at

If you or someone you know is suffering from an opioid addiction and need help or support, please contact the Substance Abuse Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357).