Pregnancy and overdose: The roles of harm redux, healthcare and criminalization

Drug Policy Alliance


Pregnancy and overdose: The roles of harm redux, healthcare and criminalization

26 August 2023

The overdose crisis has deeply impacted pregnant and postpartum people. In this Drug Researchers’ Roundtable, Drs. Silvia Martins and Emilie Bruzelius will discuss their recent study, which found that overdoses were involved in over 1 in 6 pregnancy-associated deaths in 2020. They will explain recent trends in pregnancy-associated overdose mortality, as well factors - such as the pandemic, healthcare access, and an unregulated drug supply - that may contribute to this increase in deaths. Lisa Sangoi, Co-Director and Co-Founder of Movement for Family Power, will explain the role of drug war criminalization and the family policing system in contributing to family separation and poorer drug-related outcomes.


Emilie Bruzelius, MPH, PhD

Dr. Emilie Bruzelius is a Substance Abuse Epidemiology Training Program post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Her research examines relationships between substance use and social policies and health outcomes, with a focus on pregnant people and families. Her dissertation evaluated the impacts of prenatal drug use criminalization on utilization of drug treatment and pregnancy care services. Emilie received her PhD in Epidemiology and MPH in Sociomedical Sciences from MSPH at Columbia University. She also completed advanced training in data science from DSI at the Fu School of Engineering at Columbia University and a BA in Sociology from Brandeis University. Last year, she first authored a research letter published in JAMA reporting the first national scale estimates of drug overdose among pregnant women. In addition to the JAMA paper, for her work examining the impact of opioid policies on the child welfare system, she has presented findings to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Directors, and the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Silvia Martins, MD, PhD

Dr. Silvia S. Martins is the Director of the Substance Use Epidemiology Unit of the Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and of the Policy and Health Initiatives on Opioids and other Substances interdisciplinary group (PHIOS). She is also the co-director of the NIDA T32 Substance Abuse Epidemiology Training Program in the department ). She has co-authored >290 peer-reviewed epidemiological and substance use articles. She has served as PI or MPI of multiple NIH funded grants. Some of her recent research findings have included recent trends in drug overdose mortality in pregnant women in the US, the impact of prescription drug monitoring programs on prescription opioid and heroin overdoses, machine learning techniques to understand opioid policies associated with high-opioid prescribing, and the effects of recreational cannabis laws in cannabis use in US adolescents and adults. Most recently, she received a NIDA-funded award to investigate the role of opioid policies and substance use policies that regulate substance use during pregnancy on several opioid-related outcomes in pregnant women that use opioids and their infants in which we are working with Medicaid administrative claims data. She received several awards for her research and mentoring, including the 2021 Columbia President’s Global Innovation Fund, the 2017 Columbia University MSPH Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, and the 2021 Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Sciences Stephanie Robert Mentoring Award.

Lisa Sangoi

Lisa is the Co-Director and Co-Founder of Movement for Family Power. Lisa is dedicated to building the power of families and communities affected by the child welfare and foster care systems. Having been deeply influenced by the principles of movement lawyering, she is committed to using her skills and dissipating her privilege in service of growing a movement for child welfare and foster system reform and abolition.

Lisa has had the honor of working on a number of campaigns to roll back laws, policies and practices that punish women and mothers, including a campaign against the high profile criminal prosecution of Purvi Patel for self inducing an abortion. She has also had the privilege of providing legal representation to women targeted by the child protection and criminal legal systems through trial and appellate advocacy. Given the intersection of the drug war and the child welfare system, Lisa spends quite a bit of time learning about drug use, pregnancy and parenting, and she regularly consults on related child welfare cases and legislation throughout the country.

Lisa values being in community with people and doing the hard work of slowly, over time, jointly building political analysis and thought. She loves to research, read, write and publish and she wants to explore how to democratize spaces like research and media that have not always been open to diverse voices.

Lisa has a law degree from NYU School of Law, a master's degree in human rights studies, and undergraduate degrees in math and philosophy. She has previously worked or interned at the NYU Law Family Defense Clinic, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Women Prison Association Incarcerated Mothers Law Project, and Brooklyn Defender Services Family Defense Practice, among other organizations.

If Lisa could leave you with one thought to ponder over the child welfare system and foster system, it would be this: regardless of who you think is deserving of blame for what, do you sincerely think the child welfare and foster system is a place where anyone, parent, or child, can heal? Do you sincerely believe these systems have reduced harm that children and families experience?


ASL interpretation and live captioning will be provided. This panel is virtual and open to the public. This event will be recorded and registrants will receive the link after the event. If you have other access needs or questions, please contact Aliza Cohen at

Start28 September 2023
End28 September 2023


Related Profiles

  • Emilie Bruzelius
  • Silvia S. Martins
  • Lisa Sangoi