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NIH Launches HEAL Initiative to Address the Opioid Epidemic

On April 4, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new effort to accelerate progress toward addressing the opioid addiction crisis. The Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative will use the increase in NIH funding provided by the FY 2018 omnibus bill to nearly double funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain compared to FY 2016 ($1.1 billion compared to $600 million). The initiative will fund research in two broad areas: (1) Prevent addiction through enhanced pain management, and (2) Improve treatments for opioid misuse disorder and addiction. Within the preventing addiction portfolio, NIH proposes to launch a longitudinal study to follow patients at risk for chronic pain and to fund research on understanding “the genetic and social factors that put patients at risk for opioid misuse and addiction.” As part of its improving addiction treatment efforts, the Institute also plans to “assess the additive role of social and behavioral interventions” to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) programs. More information about the initiative is posted on the NIH website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 17), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

PAA Congressional Briefing Explores Factors Affecting Life Expectancy

On April 9, the Population Association of America (PAA), a COSSA governing member, hosted a Congressional briefing entitled Grave Consequences: Why Some Americans Are No Longer Living Longer on the decline of average life expectancy among some groups in the United States. COSSA was a co-sponsor of the event.

Andrew Fenelon, researcher at the University of Maryland, spoke about the regional divergence in adult mortality. The Central South has a higher mortality rate than the rest of the country and has gotten worse over time, while the East Coast has shown significant improvements. Shannon Mannat, researcher at Syracuse University, presented on the significant increase in “deaths of despair,” which are deaths caused by drug overdose or suicide. However, she emphasized that we must focus on underlying factors that lead to opioid abuse, including economic insecurity and isolation from family and communities. The final panelist was John Haaga, Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), who presented NIA research initiatives related to life expectancy, including behavioral and social research projects.

All the panelists acknowledged that improving Americans’ health must be a collaborative effort that includes reducing economic insecurity, fighting the opioid epidemic, improving community connectedness, and increased social science research. Andrew Fenelon stated, “Any policy, even if not directly related to health, is going to have health implications.”

This article was contributed by COSSA’s spring intern, Dakota Leonard of Arizona State University.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 17), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

National Academies Releases Interactive Guide on Opioid Epidemic

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has produced an interactive guide to research on the opioid epidemic that highlights the findings of its recent report, Confronting Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic. The guide breaks down trends in prescription opioid use and misuse, overdose deaths from prescription and illicit opioids, heroin use, and heroin addiction and overdose deaths. It also outlines the report’s recommendations related to strategies for addressing the opioid epidemic, the illicit market, opioid approval and monitoring by the Food and Drug Administration, and research needs.

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 3), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

HHS Seeks Nominations for New Pain Management Task Force

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting nominations for members of their new Pain Management Task Force. The Task Force was announced on August 25 by HHS Secretary Tom Price and is charged with developing best practices for prescribing pain medication and managing pain. The Task Force will be a joint effort with the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and is seeking membership from diverse disciplines and views, including experts and patients in pain management, addiction, mental health, minority health, and more. Nominations must be received by September 27, 2017. More information can be found in the announcement in the Federal Register.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 5), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Congressional Briefing Highlights Research for Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

On June 24, the National Prevention Science Coalition (NPSC), RTI International (a COSSA member organization), and the American Orthopsychiatry Association sponsored a Congressional briefing, Fighting the Opioid Epidemic on Multiple Fronts by Leveraging Empirical Evidence, to discuss “research-based evidence for strategies preventing, intervening, and maintaining abstinence from opiate addictions.” The briefing’s speakers included Scott Novak, RTI International; Terrence Walton, National Association of Drug Court Professionals; and Kenzie Preston, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Novak’s presentation, “Opioids in America: Opportunities for Prevention and Treatment,” addressed the scope of the United States’ opioid crisis from a scientific perspective and potential opportunities for intervention. He cautioned that the crisis goes beyond the number of overdoses and extends to HIV/AIDS, in part due to the lack of needle exchange and methadone/drug treatment programs. Novak also highlighted the role of long acting Oxycodone and prescription pain reliever misuse and the nonmedical use of prescription opioids as a risk for heroin use/abuse.

In his presentation, “America’s Most Trusted Alternative to Incarceration Is Providing Hope in the Midst of the Opiate Crisis,” Walton described the mission and activities of drugs courts, which are “special court dockets or calendars designed to treat those with substance use disorders and help them change their lives.” The courts provide a “public health response to addiction and mental illness in the justice system,” noted Walton. Citing the National Institute of Justice’s Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Study, which found that the courts significantly reduce drug use and crime, he emphasized that the courts work.

Preston described the various treatments available for opioid addictions, including behavioral therapy and medication for relapse prevention, pathways to abstinence, and NIDA-supported research designed to improve treatment in her presentation, “Treatment of Opioid-Use Disorders: Pathways to Abstinence.” She also examined the promise of mobile health technologies on the horizon, including those that measure mood and behavior, GPS, and biosensors.

COSSA is a partner of NPSC. Videos and the presentations from the session are available on NPSC’s website.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 26), Update, Volume 35 (2016)

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