NIH Outlines Plans for $500 Million to Address Opioid Epidemic

Earlier this year, Congress passed a two-year budget that included $6 billion to address the opioid epidemic and mental health, $500 million of which went to NIH to address the crisis that is causing an estimated 115 U.S. deaths daily.

Leaders of the National Institutes of Health published an outline June 12 of how the medical research agency plans to use the $500 million appropriated by Congress to address the opioid crisis.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a two-year budget that included $6 billion to address the opioid epidemic and mental health, $500 million of which went to NIH to address the crisis that is causing an estimated 115 U.S. deaths daily.

NIH will focus on improving treatments for opioid abuse and addition as well as supporting pain management strategies, according to an opinion piece published by heads of the agency in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The piece was written by NIH Director Francis Collins; Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and Nora Volkow, direct of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The publication listed many objectives for NIH's funds, including: developing new medications to treat opioid addiction, tinkering with existing medications so they can be taken less often, improving medicines that reverse overdoses, developing new models of caring for people with opioid addiction in the health care and criminal justice systems, determining the best way to care for newborns in opioid withdrawal, discovering and validating new targets for non-addictive pain drugs and devices, and partnering with pharmaceutical companies to accelerate new pain and addiction medications.

"I'm most excited about resources that will allow us to accelerate development of new treatments for opioid addiction," Volkow said. "This will basically double the number of projects we can do for medication" beyond what NIDA is doing already, she said.

These efforts will be conducted through NIH's Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative. The $500 million will be distributed as research grants after a call for proposals.

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