Date of Award

Spring 4-30-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Integrative Biology (MSIB)



Major Professor

Dr. Evelina Sterling

First Committee Member

Dr. Johnathan McMurry

Second Committee Member

Dr. Lisa Ganser


Since the early 1800s scientists have been working to create the best non-addictive pain medication derived from opium. In the early 1800s morphine was distilled from opium extracted from opium poppy plants (Quinones, 2015). Soon after a chemist invents a synthetic derivative of opium and names it diacetylmorphine (heroin) (Quinones, 2015, (Drugs and Morphine Text, 2018). Heroin originally was a safe cure for morphine addiction. Once this was proven to be false, and as having addictive properties, the government intervened and began initiatives to address the issue. This public crisis quickly grew to what modern scientists and healthcare professionals know now as the "Opioid Epidemic." The opioid epidemic began around the early 1900s when doctors power to prescribe painkillers became more frequent and in larger quantities, to patients who suffered from more moderate pain (Quinones, 2015). This lead researchers such as myself and many others to investigate the addictive determinants of this very popular medication. In this thesis project we hypothesis social factors, along with biological factors, influence opioid use among adult females living in rural areas. Because no current research provides evidence-based data are available on adult female substance use disorders (SUD), we were inspired to collect data on this overlooked subpopulation. Using a mixed methods approach to address this concern, we quantified a robust and comprehensive dataset obtained from the national level. Also, we conducted a qualitative analysis of the rural North Georgia area to supplement findings from the quantitative analysis data.