Karla Wagner, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Headshot of Karla Wagner


Research Interests

I conduct mixed methods social network research using health behavior theories to examine the individual, social, and environmental factors associated with opioid overdose and HIV among people who use drugs and other groups at risk. In 1999 I started working with syringe access programs to identify ways to reduce risk for HIV among people who inject drugs. Since 2006 I have studied opioid overdose, with a focus on programs to expand access to naloxone, reduce opioid overdose deaths, and increase access to effective, evidence-based treatment. Through my research I collaborate with clinical, social service, public health, behavioral health, and criminal justice stakeholders to identify factors that elevate risk for negative health outcomes, evaluate innovative programs to reduce HIV transmission and overdose, and inform public health policy making.

Current Research Grants


Impacts of a novel law-enforcement delivered intervention on drug user health
National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA040648; PI: Davidson)
Role: Co-Investigator, University of Nevada, Reno Consortium PI

Characterizing the effects of alcohol and other drug use on engagement in the HIV care cascade among patients in IeDEA-affiliated clinics in East Africa: A Social Network Approach
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - International Epidemiology Databases to Evaluate AIDS (IeDEA) Cohort Consortium - East African Sub-Award (U01AI069911; PI: Wools-Kaloustian)
Role: Consultant

Developing Typologies of Suburban and Exurban Localities to Examine Prescription Opioid Misuse" National Institute on Drug Abuse (R21DA045293; PI: Gaines)

Networks and normative influences on sex and drug-related HIV risk in Black women
National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA038185; PI: Wagner)
Role: PI

Testing the effects of Mobile Recovery Teams to improve outcomes and link to medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation
Role: PI


Sex/Drug Tourism at the US/Mexico Border: Social Network Influences on HIV Risk
National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse Mentored Career Scientist Award (K01 DA031031)
September 15, 2010 - August 31, 2016
Role: PI

Selected publications

  • Wagner, K.D., Oman, R.F., Smith, K.P., Harding, R., Dawkins, A.D., Lu, M., Woodard, S., Berry, M.N., Roget, N.A. (2019). "Another tool for the tool box? I'll take it!": Feasibility and acceptability of mobile recovery outreach teams (MROT) for opioid overdose patients in the emergency room. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
  • Mehta, S.R., Chaillon, A., Gaines, T.L., Gonzalez-Zuniga, P.E., Stockman, J.K., Almanza-Reyes, H., Chavez, J.R., Vera, A., Wagner, K.D., Patterson, T.L., Scott, B., Smith, D.M., Strathdee, S.A. (2017) Impact of Public Safety Policies on HIV Transmission Dynamics in Tijuana, Mexico. Clinical Infectious Diseases. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/cix884 PMCID: In Process
  • Zhang, X. (PhD student author), Marchand, C., Sullivan, B., Klass, E. M., & Wagner, K. D. (2018) Naloxone access for Emergency Medical Technicians: An evaluation of a training program in rural communities. Addictive Behaviors. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.03.004
  • Wagner, K.D., Bovet, L.J., Haynes, B., Joshua, Al, Davidson, P.J. (2016) Training law enforcement to respond to opioid overdose with naloxone: Impact on knowledge, attitudes, and interactions with community members. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. (epub 18 May 2016) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.05.008
  • Wagner, K.D., Iverson, E., Wong, C.F., Jackson-Bloom, J., McNeeley, M., Davidson, P.J., McCarty, C., Kral, A.H., Lankenau, S.E. (2012). Personal social network factors associated with overdose prevention training participation. Substance Use & Misuse, 48(1-2):21-30. (epub 2012 Sep 19) PMCID: PMC3698974
  • Wagner, K.D., Moynihan, M. J., Strathdee, S. A., Cuevas-Mota, J., Clark, M., Zuniga de Nuncio, M. L., Volkmann, T.A., Teshale, E., Garfein, R. S. (2012). The Social and Environmental Context of Cross-border Drug Use in Mexico: Findings from a Mixed Methods Study of Young IDUs Living in San Diego, CA. Journal of Ethnicity and Substance Abuse, 11(4): 362-378. doi: 10.1080/15332640.2012.735182. PMCID: PMC3531810
  • Wagner, K.D., Davidson, P.J., Pollini, R. A., Strathdee, S. A., Washburn, R., & Palinkas, L. A. (2011). Reconciling Incongruous Qualitative and Quantitative Findings in Mixed Methods Research: Exemplars from Research with Drug Using Populations. International Journal of Drug Policy, 23(1): 54-61. (epub: 15 June 2011) doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2011.05.009 PMCID: PMC3210875
  • Wagner, K.D., Unger, J.B., Bluthenthal, R., Andreeva, V.A., Pentz, M.A. (2010) Cognitive behavioral theories used to explain injection risk behavior among injection drug users: A review and suggestions for the integration of cognitive and environmental models. Health Education and Behavior. 37(4): 504-532. doi:10.1177/1090198109357319. PMCID: PMC3084153
  • Wagner, K.D., Valente, T.W., Casanova, M., Partovi, S.M., Mendenhall, B.M., Hundley, J.H., Gonzalez, M., Unger, J.B. (2009) Evaluation of an overdose prevention and response training programme for injection drug users in the Skid Row Area of Los Angeles, California. International Journal of Drug Policy. 21(3): 186-93. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2009.01.003 PMCID: PMC4291458


  • PhD, Preventive Medicine (Health Behavior Research), University of Southern California
  • MA, Anthropology, Northern Arizona University
  • BA, Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder