Bio


Ayesha Sujan, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. Her research focuses on evaluating the safety and effectiveness of opioid and psychiatric medications in pregnancy using large samples of publicly and privately insured patients in the US. She also has research interests in evaluating the safety of prescribing pain and psychotropic medications in pediatric populations. In addition to her research, Dr. Sujan also works as a clinician in the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at Stanford conducting psychosocial assessments and providing pain psychology treatment for youth with chronic pain conditions.

Honors & Awards


  • Presidential Scholar Award, Tulane University (2008 to 2012)
  • Dean's List, Tulane University (2008-2012)
  • Mortar Board, Tulane University (2012)
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Tulane University (2012)
  • Anne M. McPherson Undergraduate Research Award, Tulane University (2012)
  • Travel award, Marce of North America Perinatal Mental Health Conference (2019)
  • J.R. Kantor Graduate Award for distinction in research, Indiana University – Bloomington (2020)

Professional Education


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Indiana University (2021)
  • Master of Arts, Cornell University (2014)
  • Bachelor of Science, Tulane University of Louisiana (2012)
  • BS, Tulane University, Psychology and Studio Art (double major) (2012)
  • MA, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, Human Development (2014)
  • PhD, Indiana University - Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, Clinical Psychology (2021)

Stanford Advisors


All Publications


  • Agreement Between Self-reports and Urine Toxicology Measures of Illicit Methamphetamine and Cocaine Use During Early Pregnancy. Journal of addiction medicine Sujan, A. C., Alexeeff, S. E., Slama, N. E., Goler, N., Avalos, L. A., Adams, S. R., Conway, A., Ansley, D., Pal, A., Gunn, R. L., Micalizzi, L., Young-Wolff, K. C. 2023

    Abstract

    OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to assess agreement between self-report and urine toxicology measures assessing use of 2 illicit simulants (methamphetamine and cocaine) during early pregnancy.METHODS: This cross-sectional study of 203,053 pregnancies from 169,709 individuals receiving prenatal care at Kaiser Permanente Northern California between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2019, assessed agreement (kappa, sensitivity, and specificity) between self-reported frequency and urine toxicology measures of methamphetamine and cocaine early in pregnancy.RESULTS: Prenatal use of the illicit stimulants was rare according to toxicology (n = 244 [0.12%]) and self-report measures (n = 294 [0.14%]). Agreement between these measures was low (kappa < 0.20). Of the 498 positive pregnancies, 40 (8.03%) screened positive on both measures, 204 (40.96%) screened positive on toxicology tests only, and 254 (51.00%) screened positive by self-report only. Relative to toxicology tests, sensitivity of any self-reported use was poor with 16.39% (95% confidence interval [CI], 11.75%-21.04%) of pregnancies with a positive toxicology test self-reporting any use in pregnancy. Relative to self-report, sensitivity of toxicology tests was also poor with 13.61% (95% CI, 9.69%-17.52%) of pregnancies who self-reported any use having positive urine toxicology tests. The sensitivity improved slightly at higher frequencies of self-reported use: daily, 17.50% (95% CI, 5.72%-29.29%); weekly, 25.00% (95% CI, 11.58%-38.42%); and monthly or less, 11.06% (95% CI, 6.89%-15.23%). Specificity was high (>99%), reflecting the high negative rate of use.CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that using self-report and toxicology measures in combination likely provides the most accurate information on methamphetamine and cocaine use in early pregnancy. Findings also highlight the need to provide supportive nonstigmatizing environments in which pregnant individuals feel comfortable disclosing substance use without fear of punishment.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/ADM.0000000000001230

    View details for PubMedID 37801372

  • A systematic review of in utero cannabis exposure and risk for structural birth defects. Frontiers in pediatrics Sujan, A. C., Pal, A., Avalos, L. A., Young-Wolff, K. C. 2023; 11: 1149401

    Abstract

    Cannabis use among pregnant women has increased over time. Therefore, there is a great public health need to understand the consequences of in utero cannabis exposure. While several meta-analyses and reviews have summarized the evidence of in utero cannabis exposure on adverse obstetric outcomes (e.g., low birth weight and preterm birth) and long-term offspring development, there has not been a focus on in utero cannabis exposure and risk for structural birth defects.We conducted a systematic review using PRISMA guidelines to evaluate the association between in utero cannabis exposure and structural birth defects.We identified 20 articles to include in our review and focused on interpreting findings from the 12 that adjusted for potential confounders. We report findings by seven organ systems. Within the 12 articles, four reported on cardiac malformations, three reported on central nervous system malformations, one reported on eye malformations, three reported on gastrointestinal malformations, one reported on genitourinary malformations, one reported on musculoskeletal malformations, and two reported on orofacial malformations.Findings on associations between in utero cannabis exposure and birth defects reported in more than two articles were mixed (i.e., findings for cardiac, gastrointestinal, central nervous system malformations). Findings for associations between in utero cannabis exposure and birth defects reported in two articles (i.e., orofacial malformations) or in a single article (eye, genitourinary, and musculoskeletal) suggested that cannabis exposure was not associated with these types of malformations, but strong conclusions cannot be drawn from such sparce research. We review the limitations and gaps in the existing literature and call for more research to rigorously evaluate associations between in utero cannabis exposure and structural birth defects.identifier CRD42022308130.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fped.2023.1149401

    View details for PubMedID 37303758

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC10248236

  • Racial and ethnic differences in perinatal depression and anxiety. Journal of affective disorders Sujan, A. C., Nance, N., Quesenberry, C., Ridout, K., Bhalala, M., Avalos, L. A. 2023

    Abstract

    Findings on racial and ethnic differences in perinatal depression/anxiety are mixed.We assessed racial and ethnic differences in depression, anxiety, and comorbid depression/anxiety diagnoses in the year before, during, and the year after pregnancy (n = 116,449) and depression severity during (n = 72,475) and in the year after (n = 71,243) pregnancy among patients in a large, integrated healthcare delivery system.Compared to Non-Hispanic White individuals, Asian individuals had lower risk of perinatal depression and anxiety (e.g., depression during pregnancy relative risk [RR] = 0.35, 95 % confidence interval [CI]:0.33-0.38) and postpartum moderate/severe (RR = 0.63, 95 % CI:0.60-0.67) and severe (RR = 0.66, 95 CI:0.61-0.71) depression but higher risk of moderate/severe depression during pregnancy (RR = 1.18, 95 % CI:1.11-1.25). Non-Hispanic Black individuals had higher risk of perinatal depression, comorbid depression/anxiety, and moderate/severe and severe depression (e.g., depression diagnoses during pregnancy RR = 1.35, 95 % CI:1.26-1.44). Hispanic individuals had lower risk of depression during pregnancy and perinatal anxiety (e.g., depression during pregnancy RR = 0.86, 95 % CI:0.82-0.90) but higher risk of postpartum depression (RR = 1.14, 95 % CI:1.09-1.20) and moderate/severe and severe depression during and after pregnancy (e.g., severe depression during pregnancy RR = 1.59, 95 % CI:1.45-1.75).Information on depression severity was unavailable for some pregnancies. Findings may not generalize to individuals without insurance or outside of Northern California.Non-Hispanic Black individuals of reproductive age should be targeted with prevention and intervention efforts aimed at reducing and treating depression and anxiety. Asian and Hispanic individuals of reproductive age should be targeted with campaigns to destigmatize mental health disorders and demystify treatments and systematically screened for depression/anxiety.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jad.2023.04.123

    View details for PubMedID 37156281

  • Patterns of Substance Use During Early Pregnancy and Associations With Behavioral Health Characteristics. Journal of addiction medicine Sujan, A. C., Alexeeff, S. E., Slama, N., Avalos, L. A., Adams, S. R., Conway, A., Ansley, D., Young-Wolff, K. C. 2022

    Abstract

    OBJECTIVES: The aims of the study are to identify patterns of early pregnancy substance use and to examine how these patterns relate to behavioral health conditions measured in early pregnancy.METHODS: We conducted a retrospective observational study (N= 265,274 pregnancies) screened for alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, pharmaceutical opioids, and stimulants during the first trimester via self-report and urine toxicology tests in Kaiser Permanente Northern California from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2019. To identify patterns of prenatal substance use, we conducted latent class analysis. We then calculated the prevalence of depression, anxiety, intimate partner violence, and family drug use history for each prenatal substance use group and compared the prevalences by estimating prevalence ratios using modified Poisson regression, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics.RESULTS: We identified the following 4 latent groups with different patterns of substance use: (a) predominantly alcohol and no other substances (9.30%), (b) predominantly cannabis and no other substances (4.88%), (c) predominantly nicotine and some pharmaceutical opioids (1.09%), and (d) high-polysubstance (alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, and stimulants; 0.36%); these pregnancies were compared with (e) no prenatal substance use (84.37%). The prevalence of all behavioral health conditions was elevated in all prenatal substance use groups compared with the no substance use group. Furthermore, the prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders, intimate partner violence and family drug use history were greater in the high-polysubstance cluster than the alcohol and cannabis clusters.CONCLUSIONS: Results highlight the importance of screening and interventions for all types of substance use during early pregnancy and suggest a particularly high need to prioritize targeting early interventions to pregnant and reproductive age individuals with polysubstance use.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/ADM.0000000000001090

    View details for PubMedID 36255108

  • Patterns of Substance Use During Early Pregnancy and Associations With Behavioral Health Characteristics. Journal of addiction medicine Sujan, A. C., Alexeeff, S. E., Slama, N., Avalos, L. A., Adams, S. R., Conway, A., Ansley, D., Young-Wolff, K. C. 2022; 17 (3): e141-e147

    Abstract

    The aims of the study are to identify patterns of early pregnancy substance use and to examine how these patterns relate to behavioral health conditions measured in early pregnancy.We conducted a retrospective observational study (N= 265,274 pregnancies) screened for alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, pharmaceutical opioids, and stimulants during the first trimester via self-report and urine toxicology tests in Kaiser Permanente Northern California from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2019. To identify patterns of prenatal substance use, we conducted latent class analysis. We then calculated the prevalence of depression, anxiety, intimate partner violence, and family drug use history for each prenatal substance use group and compared the prevalences by estimating prevalence ratios using modified Poisson regression, adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics.We identified the following 4 latent groups with different patterns of substance use: ( a ) predominantly alcohol and no other substances (9.30%), ( b ) predominantly cannabis and no other substances (4.88%), ( c ) predominantly nicotine and some pharmaceutical opioids (1.09%), and ( d ) high-polysubstance (alcohol, cannabis, nicotine, and stimulants; 0.36%); these pregnancies were compared with ( e ) no prenatal substance use (84.37%). The prevalence of all behavioral health conditions was elevated in all prenatal substance use groups compared with the no substance use group. Furthermore, the prevalence of depressive and anxiety disorders, intimate partner violence and family drug use history were greater in the high-polysubstance cluster than the alcohol and cannabis clusters.Results highlight the importance of screening and interventions for all types of substance use during early pregnancy and suggest a particularly high need to prioritize targeting early interventions to pregnant and reproductive age individuals with polysubstance use.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/ADM.0000000000001090

    View details for PubMedID 37267164

  • In-utero cannabis exposure and long-term psychiatric and neurodevelopmental outcomes: The limitations of existing literature and recommendations for future research BIRTH DEFECTS RESEARCH Sujan, A. C., Young-Wolff, K. C., Avalos, L. A. 2022; 114 (13): 689-713

    Abstract

    Given increases in cannabis use in pregnancy and animal model research showing effects of in-utero cannabis exposure, high-quality information on long-term consequences of in-utero cannabis exposure in humans is needed. While reviews have summarized findings from observational studies with humans, reviews have not focused on limitations of these studies and recommendations for future research. Therefore, we critically reviewed observational research on in-utero cannabis exposure and psychiatric and neurodevelopmental outcomes measured at or after age 3 and provided recommendations for future research. We used Web of Science, Google Scholar, and work cited from relevant identified publications to identify 46 papers to include in our review. Our review includes two main sections. The first section highlights the extensive limitations of the existing research, which include small and nongeneralizable samples, reliance on self-reported data, lack of detail on timing and amount of exposure, inclusion of older exposure data only, not accounting for important confounders, inclusion of potential mediators as covariates, not including outcome severity measures, and not assessing for offspring sex differences. The second section provides recommendations for future research regarding exposure and outcome measures, sample selection, confounder adjustment, and other methodological considerations. For example, with regard to exposure definition, we recommend that studies quantify the amount of cannabis exposure, evaluate the influence of timing of exposure, and incorporate biological measures (e.g., urine toxicology measures). Given that high-quality information on long-term consequences of in-utero cannabis exposure in humans does not yet exit, it is crucial for future research to address the limitations we have identified.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/bdr2.2060

    View details for Web of Science ID 000811526600001

    View details for PubMedID 35708102

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9357094

  • Listening to women and pregnant and postpartum people: Qualitative research to inform opioid use disorder treatment for pregnant and postpartum people. Drug and alcohol dependence reports Guille, C., Hall, C., King, C., Sujan, A., Brady, K., Newman, R. 2022; 3: 100064

    Abstract

    Background: The diagnosis of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) during pregnancy has increased 2-to-5-fold over the past decade and barriers to treatment are significant. Technology-based solutions have the potential to overcome these barriers and deliver evidence-based treatment. However, these interventions need to be informed by end-users. The goal of this study is to gain feedback from peripartum people with OUD and obstetric providers about a web-based OUD treatment program.Methods: Qualitative interviews were conducted with peripartum people with OUD (n=18) and focus groups were conducted with obstetric providers (n=19). Feedback from these interviews informed the development of text message-based screening, brief phone-based intervention and referral to treatment program, called Listening to Women and Pregnant and Postpartum People (LTWP). Once developed, further qualitative interviews with peripartum people with OUD (n=12) and obstetric providers (n=21) were conducted to gather feedback about the LTWP program.Results: Patients reported that a relationship with a trusted provider is paramount for treatment engagement. Providers reported that time constraints and complex patient needs prohibit them from treating OUD and that evidence-based Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) are not implemented effectively in routine prenatal care. Neither patients nor providers were enthusiastic about our web-based intervention for OUD; thus, results were used to guide the development of LTWP to improve implementation of SBIRT during prenatal care.Conclusions: End-user informed, technology-enhanced SBIRT has the potential to improve the implementation of SBIRT during routine prenatal care, and in turn, improve maternal and child health.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.dadr.2022.100064

    View details for PubMedID 36845990

  • Initiation of Opioid Prescription and Risk of Suicidal Behavior Among Youth and Young Adults PEDIATRICS Fine, K. L., Rickert, M. E., O'Reilly, L. M., Sujan, A. C., Boersma, K., Chang, Z., Franck, J., Lichtenstein, P., Larsson, H., D'Onofrio, B. M., Quinn, P. D. 2022; 149 (3)

    Abstract

    Opioids are involved in an increasing proportion of suicide deaths. This study examined the association between opioid analgesic prescription initiation and suicidal behavior among young people.We analyzed Swedish population-register data on 1 895 984 individuals ages 9 to 29 years without prior recorded opioid prescriptions. We identified prescriptions dispensed from January 2007 onward and diagnosed self-injurious behavior and death by suicide through December 2013. We first compared initiators with demographically matched noninitiators. To account for confounding, we applied an active comparator design, which examined suicidal behavior among opioid initiators relative to prescription nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug (NSAID) initiators while inverse-probability-of-treatment weighting with individual and familial covariates.Among the cohort, 201 433 individuals initiated opioid prescription. Relative to demographically matched noninitiators, initiators (N = 180 808) had more than doubled risk of incident suicidal behavior (hazard ratio = 2.64; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.47-2.81). However, in the active comparator design, opioid initiators (N = 86 635) had only 19% relatively greater risk of suicidal behavior compared with NSAID initiators (N = 255 096; hazard ratio = 1.19; 95% CI,: 1.11-1.28), corresponding to a weighted 5-year cumulative incidence of 2.2% (95% CI, 2.1-2.4) for opioid and 1.9% (95% CI, 1.9-2.0) for NSAID initiators. Most sensitivity analyses produced comparable results.Opioid initiation may make only a small contribution to the elevated risk of suicidal behavior among young people receiving pharmacologic pain management. In weighing benefits and harms of opioid initiation, our results suggest that increased risk of suicidal behavior may not be a major concern.

    View details for DOI 10.1542/peds.2020-049750

    View details for Web of Science ID 000918191300002

    View details for PubMedID 35128560

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9624202

  • A nation-wide Swedish study of opioid analgesic prescribing patterns during pregnancy and associated preexisting mental health conditions JOURNAL OF MATERNAL-FETAL & NEONATAL MEDICINE Sujan, A. C., Quinn, P. D., Rickert, M. E., Wiggs, K. K., Larsson, H., Lichtenstein, P., Oberg, A., D'Onofrio, B. M. 2022; 35 (25): 5161-5167

    Abstract

    Research has consistently shown individuals with mental health conditions are more likely to be prescribed opioid analgesic medications and to engage in heavier utilization. However, it is unclear whether these findings apply to pregnant women.We explored opioid analgesic prescription in 689,400 pregnancies occurring in Sweden between 2007 and 2013. We investigated prescription patterns across time and type of source clinic for any opioid analgesic and for strong and weak opioid analgesics. We further evaluated the extent to which receipt of opioid analgesic medications was associated with previous mental health diagnoses and prescriptions of other psychoactive medications.The prevalence of pregnant women who filled prescriptions for opioid analgesics (4.5%) was relatively stable across the assessed years. However, among pregnant women who filled opioid analgesic prescriptions, there was a large increase in strong opioid analgesic prescriptions-from 6.1% in 2007 to 17.1% in 2013. The main source of opioid analgesic prescriptions were primary care and obstetrics and gynecology clinics-38.7% of all filled prescriptions originated from primary care providers and 25.3% from obstetrics and gynecology practitioners. Compared to pregnant women who did not fill any opioid analgesic prescriptions, those who did were more likely to have a wide range of preexisting mental health diagnoses (e.g. anxiety disorder odds ratio [OR] = 3.13, 95% confidence interval [CI]:2.98,3.29) and to utilize a wide range of other psychoactive medications (e.g. benzodiazepines OR = 4.26, 95% CI:4.10,4.43). Similarly, those who received strong opioids were more likely to have a wide range of mental health diagnoses and be prescribed a wide range of psychoactive medications compared to those who received weak opioids.These results highlight the need for physicians treating pregnant women and women of childbearing age for painful conditions to obtain detailed histories of mental health problems, screen for symptoms of mental health problems, and facilitate integrated care and evidence-based mental health interventions if needed.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/14767058.2021.1875436

    View details for Web of Science ID 000627618700001

    View details for PubMedID 33441038