Dr. Vest a postdoctoral fellow in the Systems Neuroscience and Pain Lab at the Stanford School of Medicine. As a formerly incarcerated scholar, he is a strong advocate for social justice issues and public policy concerning prison reentry. His dissertation focused on applying advanced latent class analysis to better understand patient groups based upon the experiences of pain and depression during treatment with buprenorphine and naloxone. His other research interests include the intersection of mental health, substance use disorders, poverty, social justice, addiction recovery, pain, and prison reentry.

Professional Education

  • PhD, Washington State University, Experimental Psychology (2019)
  • MSc, Washington State University, Experimental Psychology (2016)
  • Bachelor of Science, Washington State University - Tricities, Psychology (2013)
  • Associates of Arts, Columbia Basin College, Chemical Dependency Counseling (2011)

Stanford Advisors


Graduate and Fellowship Programs


All Publications

  • Do We Know Enough to Prescribe Opioid-Agonist Therapies to Adolescents With Problematic Opioid Use? A Commentary on Camenga et al. (2019). Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs Vest, N., Humphreys, K. N. 2019; 80 (4): 406–7

    View details for PubMedID 31495376

  • Borderline personality disorder features and drinking, cannabis, and prescription opioid motives: Differential associations across substance and sex. Addictive behaviors Vest, N. A., Murphy, K. T., Tragesser, S. L. 2018; 87: 46–54


    Drinking motives have shown meaningful associations with borderline personality disorder (BPD) features. However, it is unknown whether other common substances of abuse (namely cannabis and prescription opioids) have the same associations with BPD features. In the present study, we tested associations between BPD features and motives across three substances: alcohol, cannabis, and prescription opioids. The purpose of the study was to determine whether BPD showed similar patterns of associations across drugs, or whether some substances serve particular functions for individuals with BPD features, and whether this also varies by sex in a college student sample.Five-hundred ninety-four college students completed online questionnaires measuring demographics, borderline personality disorder features, substance use, and substance specific motives for alcohol, cannabis, and prescription opioid use.BPD was most strongly associated with coping motives across all substances. For both alcohol and cannabis, this was true for both males and females, along with conformity motives. For prescription opioids, coping, social, enhancement, and pain motives were only significantly related to BPD features for females. When compared statistically, it was found that the associations with coping drinking motives and opioid pain motives were higher among females.This pattern of results suggests that negatively reinforcing motives (coping and conformity) play a similar functional role in borderline personality and substance use disorder pathology for alcohol and cannabis, but for prescription opioids the negative reinforcement motives (coping and pain) were only evident in females.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.06.015

    View details for PubMedID 29945027

  • Borderline Features and Prescription Opioid Misuse in a Substance Use Disorder Treatment Sample. Substance use & misuse Vest, N., Tragesser, S. 2018; 54 (1): 166–75


    An association between borderline personality disorder (BPD) and substance use disorders has been well established. However, very little is known about the relationship between BPD and prescription opioid misuse, specifically.The relationship between borderline personality disorder features and prescription opioid misuse was examined in a sample of 208 substance use disorder treatment patients in the outpatient level of care.Controlling for use of alcohol and cannabis, as well as other relevant covariates, we found that BPD features were associated with age of first use of prescription opioids, prescription opioid use disorder symptom count, lifetime use, past 12-month use, problem use, and cravings. Additionally, we found that BPD features were not associated with greater use of medically necessary opioid pain killers as prescribed by a physician; rather the association with BPD was in the greater likelihood of misuse (non-prescribed) of prescription opioid pain killers. The self-harm/impulsivity facet of BPD was most strongly associated with prescription opioid-related variables. Conclusions/Importance: These findings suggest that BPD is related to prescription opioid misuse, above and beyond the tendency to use other drugs of abuse, and that the self-harm impulsivity facet appears to be driving this relationship.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/10826084.2018.1512626

    View details for PubMedID 30375912

  • Impulsivity and risk for prescription opioid misuse in a chronic pain patient sample. Addictive behaviors Vest, N., Reynolds, C. J., Tragesser, S. L. 2016; 60: 184–90


    Misuse of, and addiction to, prescription opioid pain relievers is a growing concern, in both non-clinical samples and chronic pain patients receiving opioid analgesic therapy. Research is needed to identify which patients may be more prone to misuse or dependence on opioids in a chronic pain treatment setting. Based on literature showing the role of impulsivity in substance use disorders generally, we predicted that impulsivity may also be important to understanding which individuals may be at risk for opioid misuse when opioids are prescribed for pain. The present study examined associations between impulsivity facets and measures of prescription opioid misuse and symptoms. Four facets of impulsivity were examined: urgency, sensation seeking, lack of premeditation, and lack of perseverance. 143 patients receiving treatment for chronic pain at a regional pain clinic completed a series of questionnaires including the UPPS and measures of opioid risk and misuse. Consistent with predictions, urgency was associated with risk for future misuse (β=0.246, p<0.05), current misuse (β=0.253, p<0.01), and symptoms of current opioid use disorder (OUD; β=0.206, p<0.05). Sensation seeking was also associated with current misuse (β=0.279, p<0.01). These results suggest that identifying facets of impulsivity is important to understanding and assessing for risk of prescription opioid misuse in the context of chronic pain treatment. These data indicate that patients who react impulsively to negative mood states and cravings may be especially prone to developing aberrant use patterns when taking prescription opioids. This is the first known study to identify the role of urgency in predicting risk for OUDs in chronic pain patients.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.addbeh.2016.04.015

    View details for PubMedID 27156219