How NIH plans to use $500M to fight opioid abuse

National Institutes of Health leaders published an opinion piece June 12 to outline how the medical research agency plans to spend the $500 million budget Congress awarded it to combat the opioid crisis, The Hill reports.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a two-year budget that allotted $6 billion to address the opioid crisis and mental health. 

The NIH aims to improve treatments for opioid addiction and strengthen pain management strategies, the NIH leaders wrote in JAMA. The effort will be operated through the NIH's Helping to End Addiction Long-term initiative.

Five takeaways from the piece:

1. HEAL will speed the development of extended-release formulations of medications that treat opioid use disorder as well as new medications and immunotherapies to treat opioid use disorder and prevent and reverse overdoses.

2. Additionally, the effort will support services and launch research to develop care models for opioid use disorder within healthcare and criminal justice settings. This effort includes a study on how evidence-based interventions can improve opiod use disorder outcomes.

3. HEAL also will expand clinical trials involving neonatal abstinence syndrome to identify the best treatment approaches.

4. The second major focus of the HEAL research includes a coordinated approach to discover and validate strategies for effective, nonaddictive pain management.

5. "Like most other pioneering scientific initiatives, HEAL will focus on a range of objectives, from short-term goals to research priorities that will take longer to bear fruit," the NIH leaders wrote. "Yet all will be aimed at the same ultimate vision: a nation of people with far less disabling pain and opioid addiction."

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