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opioid crisis

HEALing Communities Initiative

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On October 7, 2019, I participated with several dignitaries in an event at the University of Kentucky, Lexington on the HEALing Communities Initiative. This study will test a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to reducing opioid-related deaths in selected U. S. communities. The University of Kentucky is a research partner in HEAL. Also involved in the event was Alex Elswick who heads the Lexington-based Voices of Hope, an organization that helps people in recovery stay in recovery. Recently, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) filmed this video with Alex in which he shared his story of recovery. The producers of the video also asked me to weigh in on the importance of a community-based approach to combating the opioid crisis. Credit: HHS


Meeting with Freshmen Members of Congress on Addiction

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Meeting with Freshmen Working Group on Addiction
I enjoyed meeting with seven members of the Freshmen Working Group on Addiction, a bipartisan group of newly elected members of the House of Representatives. They toured NIH on September 9, 2019 and sat down with me and other staff to discuss the HEAL Initiative and other efforts to defeat the opioid crisis. Among those visiting were Congresswoman Donna Shalala of Florida (left), former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Congressman Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania (middle). Also visiting were Congressman David Trone of Michigan, Congressman David Joyce of Pennsylvania, Congresswoman Susie Lee of Nevada, Congressman T.J. Cox of California, and Congresswoman Katie Hill of California. Credit: NIH

Researchers Elucidate Role of Stress Gene in Chronic Pain

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Credit: Getty Images/simonkr

For most people, pain eventually fades away as an injury heals. But for others, the pain persists beyond the initial healing and becomes chronic, hanging on for weeks, months, or even years. Now, we may have uncovered an answer to help explain why: subtle differences in a gene that controls how the body responds to stress.

In a recent study of more than 1,600 people injured in traffic accidents, researchers discovered that individuals with a certain variant in a stress-controlling gene, called FKBP5, were more likely to develop chronic pain than those with other variants [1]. These findings may point to new non-addictive strategies for preventing or controlling chronic pain, and underscore the importance of NIH-funded research for tackling our nation’s opioid overuse crisis.


All Scientific Hands on Deck to End the Opioid Crisis

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Word cloudIn 2015, 2 million people had a prescription opioid-use disorder and 591,000 suffered from a heroin-use disorder; prescription drug misuse alone cost the nation $78.5 billion in healthcare, law enforcement, and lost productivity. But while the scope of the crisis is staggering, it is not hopeless.

We understand opioid addiction better than many other drug use disorders; there are effective strategies that can be implemented right now to save lives and to prevent and treat opioid addiction. At the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta last April, lawmakers and representatives from health care, law enforcement, and many private stakeholders from across the nation affirmed a strong commitment to end the crisis.

Research will be a critical component of achieving this goal. Today in the New England Journal of Medicine, we laid out a plan to accelerate research in three crucial areas: overdose reversal, addiction treatment, and pain management [1].