University of New England Granted $10.7 Million To Research Opioid and Opiate Alternatives For Chronic Pain
The University of New England has been studying opioid and opiate alternatives for several years but is now set to receive a five-year $10.7 million grant. Funding will be provided by the National Institutes of Health and aims to find non-addictive alternatives to addictive painkillers to relieve chronic pain.
The research center plans to continue researching the brain to assist in the development of new medications as well as alternative forms of pain management, such as physical therapy.
Opioids, although indicated mainly for the treatment of acute pain, cancer, and palliative care, have been overused in chronic pain patients for conditions such as lower back pain. Drugs such as oxycodone can cause dependency, in addition to an even more painful condition, called hyperalgesia.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many two million people in the United States are addicted to prescription opioids, including painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. An estimated 4 in 5 new heroin users admit they initiated their habit after first becoming addicted to prescription opioids.
And of course, misuse of these drugs may result in overdose and in fact, took the lives of more than 183,000 people from 1999-2015. The state of Maine alone is averaging more than one overdose every day, and like the nation as a whole, outnumber car accidents as a cause of death.
In 2015 alone there were more than 33,000 deaths nationwide, and that number is expected to increase when the final tallies for 2016 come in.
The CDC released opioid prescribing guidelines last year, which encouraged physicians to limit opioids to seven days for acute pain and to avoid prescribing them for chronic pain except in cases of cancer or palliative care. Also last year, the Maine legislature approved a law that restricts the dosage and duration that most patients can be prescribed painkillers.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology