Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series



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The nonmedical use of prescription opioid pain relievers and associated overdose deaths have been labeled an epidemic by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. While these medicines play an important role in the treatment of pain, the benefits of opioids for the treatment of pain need to be balanced against these very real risks. Alex has been working closely with Professor Wayne Wakeland, Teresa Schmidt, and Dr. Dennis McCarty (OHSU) to create a dynamic systems-level model of opioid use, abuse, and diversion in order to give context to current research in this area and to provide a better understanding of possible effects of interventions to deter nonmedical use and minimize harms.

Alex will present the "initiation" sector of a multi-sector model of the prescription opioid abuse system. In this model, initiation of opioid use is modeled as an infectious process in which current users infect their friends with the idea of opioid use. In the absence of other factors, this classic SIR (Susceptible-Infected-Recovered) infection model results in exponential growth in the user population. In the model this growth is mitigated by opioid supply factors and deterred by negative messaging by heavy users. The model is very much a work in progress, so comments, challenges, and questions are expected and welcome.

Biographical Information

Alex Nielsen is a doctoral student in the Systems Science Graduate Program. Her current research focuses on system dynamic simulation and microsimulation of prescription opioid use, misuse and abuse.


Chronic pain -- Management, Outcome assessment (Medical care), Opioids -- Therapeutic use, Opioid abuse -- Treatment, System dynamics


Medicine and Health | Substance Abuse and Addiction

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System Dynamics Modeling of Prescription Opioid Pain Reliever Abuse