Can Understanding the History of Drug Addiction Help Address the Opioid Epidemic?

Sep 17, 2019

2 min

Nancy D. Campbell

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people die every day after overdosing on opioids. Lives have been lost, families shattered, and billions spent as experts, elected leaders, health care professionals, and law enforcement officials try to address the country's opioid epidemic

A professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute can help shed light on the forces at work in this crisis and its history.

Professor Nancy Campbell is an expert is in the history of science, technology, and medicine as it relates to drug policy and the social significance of drugs. She is a professor and head of the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

"We found her to be one of the most knowledgeable people on the history of opioids and how that history fits into the context of today’s problem," reporters for CBS 6 News in Albany wrote of Campbell. In a recent interview with the station, Campbell discussed her extensive research on the history of drug addiction, as well as her approach to educating students about it.

“I actually want my students to go out of the class, knowing more about where our current opioid epidemic came from, the endemic that it built upon and also knowing more about drug markets and the social aspects,” Campbell said. 

August 15 – CBS 6 News

Are you a reporter covering the opioid crisis and need to know what’s being done and what more needs to be done? Let our experts help with your questions. Campbell is available to speak to media regarding the opioid crisis and the history of drug addiction – simply click on her icon to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
Nancy D. Campbell

Nancy D. Campbell

Professor and Graduate Program Director, Science and Technology Studies (STS)

Focuses on the history of science, technology, and medicine as it relates to drug policy and the social significance of drugs

Opioid CrisisHarm ReductionOpioid OverdoseHistory of Science & MedicineGender & Addiction

You might also like...

Check out some other posts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

3 min

The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Customer Experience

Gaurav Jain, assistant professor of marketing at the Rensselaer Lally School of Management, examines how individuals make judgments, estimates, and decisions in the absence of complete information. Previously, Jain served as the chief marketing advisor at multiple firms. Below are his thoughts on the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on customer experience. Voice of the Customer In today's hyper-connected world, the voice of the customer (VoC) is louder and clearer than ever. But how do we sift through this cacophony to understand what our customers are really saying? Enter AI. It's revolutionizing the way customer experience teams handle VoC programs, and as a marketing leader, I find this incredibly exciting. Take direct customer feedback, for example. We're no longer just collecting survey responses and storing them in a database for quarterly review. AI algorithms, particularly those using natural language processing, are helping us instantly categorize and prioritize this feedback. Imagine an e-commerce platform that can immediately flag a customer's mention of "late delivery" in a post-purchase survey. That's not just efficient; it's customer-centric. But what about the things customers are saying when they're not directly talking to us? That's where AI-driven sentiment analysis comes in. These tools can scan social media, forums, and review sites to gauge the sentiment behind a customer's words. I've seen hotel chains use this technology to monitor travel forums and review sites. If a guest mentions "noisy rooms," even without lodging a direct complaint, the brand can proactively look into soundproofing solutions. Then there's inferred feedback, the kind you get by reading between the lines. AI can analyze customer behavior, like frequent page visits without conversion or cart abandonment, to suggest what might be going wrong. For instance, an online fashion retailer could use AI to figure out why a particular dress gets a lot of views but few purchases. Maybe it's the sizing, maybe it's the price, but the point is, you get to know without having to ask. And it doesn't stop at gathering feedback. AI is helping us turn this raw data into actionable insights. We can predict future behavior, like churn rates, based on past feedback. This allows us to be proactive rather than reactive, which is a game-changer in customer experience management. Finally, let's talk about what happens after we've gathered all this feedback. AI is ensuring that every customer who takes the time to share their thoughts receives an immediate and appropriate response. Chatbots can handle common queries or concerns, making the customer feel heard and valued right away. So, from the perspective of a marketing leader, it's not just about the efficiency that AI brings to VoC programs. It's about the opportunity to deepen our connection with customers. By truly understanding their words, their sentiments, and even their behaviors, we can craft experiences that resonate on a human level. And in a world that's increasingly digital, that human touch is what sets a brand apart. Customer Service It's truly intriguing to observe how AI is weaving its way into the customers’ experience. Online, chatbots are making waves. Chatbots are not just digital tools; they're our first point of contact, bridging the gap between brands and consumers. However, there was always the question of accuracy versus efficiency while managing these chatbots – AI has answered that question. AI chatbots provide real-time yet accurate assistance, making the digital shopping journey feel more interactive. Companies can reduce customer dropout while avoiding the expense of managing a large human customer service team. AI is revolutionizing phone-based customer service as well. Voice recognition allows natural language processing for easier navigation, while predictive analysis anticipates caller needs based on their history. Enhanced personalization means customers no longer repetitively provide account details, and emotion detection aids in gauging caller mood. The result? Reduced wait times, more efficient interactions, and a significantly improved telephonic customer experience. In essence, AI is bridging the gap between technology and human touch in the retail world, making our interactions with brands more meaningful and personalized. Again, companies can do this in a cost-effective manner. Jain is available to speak with media - - simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.

3 min

When Our Feelings Become Physical: Understanding Our Bodily Responses To Emotion

Alicia Walf is a neuroscientist and senior lecturer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute whose research interests are fueled by the broad question: Why are there individual differences in stress? This question led to studying hormones' actions for growth and plasticity in the brain and body. She has since refined her pursuit to include consideration of body, brain, and mind relationships as they relate to memory, perception, social cognition, and emotions. Dr. Walf has taken a cross-species and cross-discipline approach in her work. Dr. Walf’s studies of the effects and mechanisms of stress and well-being often occur in the “wild,” such as in architectural built environments, artistic installations, interactions with technology, contemplative practices, conference rooms, and classrooms. Here, Walf examines what we know and what we have yet to learn about the physical manifestations of our emotions. Over 100 years ago, the earliest ponderings of how feelings are reflected in our body were described. Also, several decades ago, the first personality associated with an intense stress response was Type A personality. This personality type is characterized by quickness to anger and competitive drive as well as the negative consequences of chronic stress on the cardiovascular system. Recent work in mice shows that increasing heart rate produces an anxiety-like state (Hsueh et al., 2023, Nature). Now, a focus is trying to link changes in the body with feelings to brain mechanisms. Even after all of these years of study, we do not fully understand if there is a signature bodily response associated with specific feelings. For example, both anger and love (and other feelings that have been studied like jealousy) are associated with changes in the body that look indistinguishable from stress. The heart beat quickens, the eyes widen and the pupils become larger, blood rushes to the muscles and surface of the body. As surface body temperature and blood flow rises with these changes, a blush may become apparent on our cheeks. Indeed, a study showed that people have similar responses in describing which areas of the body are activated or deactivated in different emotional states; that is, where they feel these emotions in their body (Nummenmaa et al., 2013, PNAS). In this study, people said that love most greatly activated the head and trunk, whereas anger’s activation of the body was more focused on the head, arms, and chest. We can agree that love and anger – and all the strong feelings we have – mentally feel quite different from each other and we also have different behaviors. Those differences are likely due to a cognitive component, or how we assess the current situation in relation to what we know and our past experiences. Neuroscientists would argue that there are likely different brain circuits active in an angry and love state (and others), but those precise mechanisms are yet to be figured out. To date, we understand that feelings of love activate a reward pathway. Neurochemical differences may also play a role. For example, release of dopamine in this reward pathway and oxytocin in areas involved in social bonding are tied to love. The challenge of understanding the links between these expressions of emotions in the body to the mechanisms in our brain remains. Walf is available to speak with media - simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.

3 min

Why History Matters: OTC Naloxone and the Politics of Overdose

Overdose reversal drug to be sold over-the-counter following recent FDA approval Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved NARCAN® to be sold over the counter. NARCAN® is used to prevent opioid overdose deaths. Nancy Campbell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute professor and graduate program director in Science and Technology Studies, comments on the significance of this development below. Campbell’s research focuses on science, technology, and medicine as it relates to drugs, drug policy, and the social significance of legal and illegal drugs, with a recent focus on opioid overdose. She studies those who govern and use drugs, produce scientific knowledge about them, and seek to treat drug problems. In March 2023, the FDA approved NARCAN® (naloxone nasal spray made by Emergent BioSolutions Inc.) to be sold over-the-counter (OTC). Why would a drug synthesized in 1960, approved by the FDA for opioid overdose reversal in 1971, and still used every day in operating rooms and emergency medicine become the center of a projected billion dollar consumer market by 2027? For the past 40 years, there has been an exponential rise in U.S. opioid overdose deaths of 9% every year. We are still on that trajectory. Twenty years into this ongoing increase in overdose deaths, the naloxone activists, researchers, and advocates who are the protagonists of OD: Naloxone and the Politics of Overdose (MIT 2020) by Rensselaer historian Nancy D. Campbell, noticed their friends dying and decided to do something about it. They created overdose prevention education and struggled to liberate naloxone and get it into the hands of those who need it most. In the late 1990s, a harm reduction social movement formed to liberate naloxone from the exclusive control of medicine and distribute it through community-based programs that saw naloxone as a public good. Harm reduction advocates worked with local sheriffs’ departments and other first responders to get them to start carrying naloxone. They got the CDC to start tracking ODs. They worked to get state legislatures to change naloxone access laws and Good Samaritan laws to allow bystanders to intervene. To prevent opioid overdose deaths, they got friends and family involved in harm reduction efforts. Public Health Departments got onboard in areas where public funds are spent on harm reduction and overdose prevention. Naloxone started its career as an injectable solution. EMTs innovated an intranasal method in the early 2000s and a nasal spray product was FDA-approved in 2015. Two years later, FDA took the unusual step of calling on pharmaceutical companies for proposals for OTC naloxone and conducting some of the necessary studies at FDA expense. This process led to the March 2023 approval of nasal spray NARCAN®. What will be the fate of street distribution in the public interest when OTC naloxone appears on drugstore shelves? We haven’t heard what its shelf price will be. Will those who need it most be able to afford it? Will the broader public become more educated about overdose prevention? Naloxone is not enough to reverse the opioid overdose death curve. I am hoping that OTC naloxone — in conjunction with other public health overdose prevention measures — is enough to crest the wave. But it will take all of us together to address 40 years of social, political, and economic forces that have driven opioid overdose death rates to socially unacceptable levels. Campbell is available to speak with media - simply click on her icon now to arrange an interview today.

View all posts