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Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC: Grad Student to Explore Link Between Substance Use Disorders, Firearm-related Suicide

Do substance use disorders and long-term opioid therapy have a connection with firearm-related suicide?

Ms. Josie Caves Sivaraman, a doctoral student of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and graduate research assistant at the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, will use a $25,000 grant from the National Collaborative for Gun Violence Research to investigate this question among Medicaid-insured North Carolinians.

Additionally, the study will explore how specific mental health diagnoses — especially depression and generalized anxiety disorder — might change the association between substance use disorder and gun suicide.

Ms. Sivaraman’s study is among $9.8 million in grants announced by the collaborative, which will fund 17 research projects producing evidence on firearm-related violence in America. Collectively, the grants are among the largest funding awards for gun policy research since the federal government ceased funding this area of research more than two decades ago.

For her project, Ms. Sivaraman will link 2014-2017 data on suicide victims from the North Carolina Violent Death Reporting System to state Medicaid claims data for the same period. Then, she will analyze the claims data to determine the incidence of substance use disorder and mental health diagnoses while also exploring several measures of long-term opioid use.

“I am very pleased to be able to use the North Carolina Violent Death Reporting System for this work,” Ms. Sivaraman said. “It is an excellent state resource for violence prevention research, and the people at the Injury and Violence Prevention Branch at the Division for Public Health have always been great collaborators and supporters of junior researchers like myself.”

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