Patricia Cavazos, Ph.D.

 
I am a clinically trained licensed psychologist who has been involved in biomedical research for over 10 years. My research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and involves studying the most efficacious policies that will reduce substance use involvement while accounting for today’s new media-saturated environment. My work has been the subject of major national and international online and print media coverage including the following popular outlets: WebMD, Washington Post, Reuters, and Time. I am often invited to serve on NIH and internal grant review committees. I have also mentored the research activities of students through various internship programs, including the Leadership Alliance Program at Washington University and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Summer Research Program. In 2014 and 2018, I was voted the “Course Master of the Year” by students enrolled in the Master of Science in Applied Health Behavior Research program at Washington University School of Medicine Clinical Research Training Center.

Phone: 314-362-2152
Email: rehgp@psychiatry.wustl.edu

My Research Team: Investigators Connecting Health and Social Media (iCHASM)

My specific research areas include:

  1. Social media: Social media use is a popular activity, especially among young people. In my research, I study how social media posts can be used for behavioral insights.
  2. Policy: Many young people engage in behaviors that can jeopardize their health such as substance abuse and unprotected sex. My goal is to understand how policies can help to reduce health risk behaviors.
  3. Mental health epidemiology: My research addresses why and how certain risk behaviors cluster with psychiatric illnesses.
Recent findings:

Pro-substance use content is rampant on social media platforms and normalizes substance abuse behaviors.

Cavazos-Rehg, P. A., Krauss, M., Fisher, S. L., Salyer, P., Grucza, R. A., & Bierut, L. J. (2015). Twitter chatter about marijuana. J Adolesc Health, 56(2), 139-145. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.10.270. PMID: 25620299

Some state-level policies play an important role in reducing youth risk behaviors at a population-level (e.g., lowering drunk driving behaviors).

Cavazos‐Rehg, P. A., Krauss, M. J., Spitznagel, E. L., Chaloupka, F. J., Schootman, M., Grucza, R. A., & Bierut, L. J. (2012). Associations between selected state laws and teenagers’ drinking and driving behaviors. Alcohol Clin Exp Res36(9), 1647-1652. PMID: 22702907

Quitting smoking is associated with improved mental health; we found that positive behavioral and psychological outcomes tend to accompany smoking cessation.

Cavazos-Rehg, P. A., Breslau, N., Hatsukami, D., Krauss, M. J., Spitznagel, E. L., Grucza, R. A., … & Bierut, L. J. (2014). Smoking cessation is associated with lower rates of mood/anxiety and alcohol use disorders. Psychol Med44(12), 2523-2535. PMID: 25055171

 

Our active projects include:

Digital Therapy to Support Recovery among Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder
In this study we will recruit pregnant women with opioid use disorder and test a newly developed digital therapy that delivers engaging, credible, and relevant information about medication assisted treatment.

uMAT-R: A mobile application to support pregnant women in Missouri who are recovering from Opioid Use Disorders (OUD)
We will implement the uMAT-R app in several clinics throughout Missouri who treat pregnant women with OUD. uMAT-R is designed as an add-on to routine in-person clinical care so that patients of these clinics can access the skills and strategies they need outside of scheduled visits.

Implications of Social Media Content and Engagement for Alcohol and Marijuana Use
We are studying the marijuana and alcohol-related content to which young people are exposed via social media and their associations with marijuana and alcohol use behaviors and norms.

Leveraging Social Media for Substance Use Behavioral Insight
This study will harness social media posts for novel insight into drug use, especially newly emerging and increasingly popular drugs.

Leveraging Social Media to Accelerate Mental Health Treatment
This study will take first steps toward facilitating intervention development linked to social media to support recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD).

Understanding Depression Displays on Twitter and Identifying Ways to Intervene
We are exploring strategies for identifying and helping individuals who are feeling depressed, contemplating suicide, and/or engaging in self-harm behaviors and expressing these struggles on Twitter.

Investigating the Promotion of Eating Disorders on Twitter: Implications for Online Intervention
We are taking the first steps towards engaging individuals who are networking on social media about eating disorder symptoms and risk factors. Additionally, we are garnering suggestions/receptivity for the delivery of technology-based prevention/treatment messages on social media platforms.

Policy as Environment: Long-term Effects of Laws Restricting Youth Substance Use
We are studying whether policy environments in which adolescents have easier access to alcohol and tobacco lead to elevated risk for addiction and related health effects later in adulthood.

Smoking, Suicide and Mental Health: Using Policy Change to Probe Causality
The global aim of this study is to examine whether smoking is a contributing cause for suicide and more proximal adverse mental health outcomes.

Building on Bridging the Gap: Environmental Influences on Teen Substance Use (recently completed)
We are conducting an in-depth investigation of the processes through which prevention efforts (e.g., school-based efforts and state-level penalties) reduce the substance use behaviors they target.

Funding:

Opioid Epidemic Research Funding Program
Digital Therapy to Support Recovery among Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorder
My Role: Principal Investigator

SAMHSA State Opioid Response (P19-00792)
uMAT-R: A mobile application to support pregnant women in Missouri who are recovering from Opioid Use Disorders (OUD)
My Role: Principal Investigator

R01 DA039455
Implications of Social Media Content and Engagement for Alcohol and Marijuana Use
My Role: Principal Investigator

K02 DA043657
Leveraging Social Media for Substance Use Behavioral Insight
My Role: Principal Investigator

Once Upon a Time Foundation
Leveraging Social Media to Accelerate Mental Health Treatment
My Role: Principal Investigator

R03 MH109024
Understanding Depression Displays on Twitter and Identifying Ways to Intervene
My Role: Principal Investigator

R21 MH112331
Investigating the Promotion of Eating Disorders on Twitter: Implications for Online Intervention
My Role: Principal Investigator

R01 DA031288
Policy as Environment: Long-term Effects of Laws Restricting Youth Substance Use
My Role: Co-Investigator

R01 DA042195
Smoking, Suicide and Mental Health: Using Policy Change to Probe Causality
My Role: Co-Investigator

R01 DA032843 (recently completed)
Building on Bridging the Gap: Environmental Influences on Teen Substance Use
My Role: Principal Investigator