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Graduate students conduct research on fentanyl 

Alyssa Tyler editor in chief 

A group of graduate students, graduate assistants, and Alicia Mason, professor in communication, are conducting an ongoing research project around the discussion between the drug, fentanyl, and parents’ discussions with their children.  

“From the communications perspective, communication is everything to us. It’s the way in which we form our impressions of the world is through communication with others. So, when we are looking at family communication, particularly parents and children. The way in which parents are communicating about anything has a huge impact on those children in how they then interpret the world. So, looking at an important subject like this, and how parents are approaching this subject, will give insight then how prepared those children might be,” said graduate student Hannah Dixon.  

Parents of children ages 13-21 were asked to take part in the study. The group is looking to research the level of conversations and conformity within family dynamics.  

“We know the physical and medical aspects of it and how it affects people if they come in contact with it. But basically, we wanted to investigate how we’re talking about it,” said Isaa Lewis, graduate student in communication. “How are we preparing kids to go out in public and deal with this? Are parents effectively telling their kids about the problem?”  

The group is collecting data through two main processes. First, a survey that takes around ten minutes to complete. Then, they are cleared for an interview that should take around 25 minutes to complete. The interviews are to be conducted by every member of the group.  

“So, it’s basically surveys, just to kind of get ideas of, how open is their relationship with their children? Do they talk about touchy subjects that some people would avoid? And then, the interview process is to kind of get more of an idea like, have they talked to their kids about fentanyl, do they know what fentanyl is, do they know how dangerous it is? We’re just trying to get an idea of these conversations essentially,” 

The goal of the project is to have 75-100 participants. Mason marketed the project through KOAM and University Marketing. 

“On the coast, it’s fairly common knowledge of what they are doing. They provide test strips for fentanyl. They are supplying Narcan to people to counter effect the effects and such. But the group decided that the Midwest is this under researched part of the United States. There are family units here, that if anything is more traditional than the coast. So, to uncover how these patterns of are working, and the patterns of communication. We wanted to see that works in the Midwest in these homes,” Lewis said.  

The goal is to be finished with the research by the end of the fall semester.  

“It will be a research paper. I believe the goal is to present it at conference, potentially be published. I know it should be available to the public because we have gone to the public for participants. And participants are typically given the option to read results if they want to. I think that would be the end goal,” Dixon said.  

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