Opioid addiction, misuse and overdose is an ongoing and rapidly evolving public health crisis. To address the crisis, NIH is launching a comprehensive, trans-NIH Initiative on opioid addiction and pain. This Initiative will build on extensive, well-established NIH research, including basic science of the complex neurological pathways involved in pain and addiction, implementation science to develop and test treatment models, and research to integrate behavioral interventions with Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD). Successes from this research include the development of the nasal form of naloxone, the most commonly used nasal spray for reversing opioid overdose, the development of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder, and new molecular targets for pain management.
The goal of a trans-NIH Opioid Initiative is to focus agency resources and efforts on key areas of significant need and opportunity through collaborative, cutting-edge research. For certain advances, NIH will need to forge strategic partnerships to advance safer, non-addictive treatments for pain.
Over the past year, NIH has convened meetings with experts from public and private organizations to identify the areas that would benefit from focused efforts by NIH alone or in partnerships with outside organizations. The areas identified as having the greatest immediate need are:
- Opioid Misuse and Addiction
More than 2 million Americans have OUD. Millions more misuse opioids, taking opioid medications longer or in higher doses than prescribed. NIH will support research that can prevent and treat opioid misuse and addiction, and that will help people with OUDs achieve and maintain a meaningful and sustained recovery.
- Pain Management
More than 25 million Americans suffer from daily chronic pain. NIH will support research to understand how chronic pain develops, making patients susceptible to risks associated with opioid use. NIH will work with partners from the biopharmaceutical industry to develop a data sharing collaborative, new biomarkers for pain, and a clinical trials network for testing new pain therapies. NIH will also enhance the pipeline of treatments for pain and enhance clinical practice for pain management.