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.