NIH Publishes Draft of National Opioid Roadmap

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published a draft of a new report filled with research recommendations to help fight the opioid epidemic.

The report focuses on seven areas of research and development, which include factors such as biology and chemistry; non-biological contributors; pain management; prevention; treatment; overdose; and community consequences.

The draft, published last week, was compiled by the Fast Track Action Committee on Health Science and Technology Response to the Opioid Crisis (Opioid FTAC), who was charged with creating the R&D roadmap following its creation in Dec. 2017.

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“As the opioid crisis continues to devastate the United States and its communities, science and technology have been recognized as key components of the U.S. approach to combat the crisis,” the report said. “Achieving scientific breakthroughs and advancements to help resolve the opioid crisis requires a federal research portfolio that strategically supports basic, applied, and implementation science.” 

When it comes to chemical and biological factors, the Opioid FTAC says researchers should pursue more R&D surrounding the mechanisms, pathways and complexity of opioid addiction and pain, as well as models, methods and tools to aid in such studies.

The draft report also advised for the identification of non-biological factors contributing to opioid misuse; the effectiveness of various policies, prevention and treatment in addressing the crisis; the addressing of stigma; and the investigation of how knowledge gaps contribute to opioid misuse.

On the pain management front, Opioid FTAC recommended the pursuit of R&D surrounding what drives chronic pain, what non-addictive opioid alternatives can be used for treatment, how to best assess and manage pain and the impact of treating young people’s pain with opioids.

Additionally, the draft report made a number of R&D recommendations surrounding prevention. Those include improving opioid-related data collection, assessing opioid presentation and disposal, testing various interventions, creating databases to curb opioid overprescription and evaluating clinical interventions, as well as determining how to scale and sustaining preventative strategies locally.

The authors went on to provide a variety of suggestions surrounding treatment of opioid misuse. They advise researchers to look at the effectiveness of new opioid treatments, the development of best practices for opioid addiction treatment of various populations and the creation of smart tech to be used alongside pharmacological therapeutics. Additionally, the draft road map suggested the assessment of the effectiveness of peer and faith-based recovery, as well as how to integrate opioid treatment in criminal justice settings.

In terms of overdose-related research recommendations, the draft report suggests developing new tools to detect synthetic opioids and new methods to prevent overdose deaths, as well as research related to how to enhance awareness of overdose reversal medication, how to track overdoses, how to deliver and provide overdose reversal products and how to deliver long-term successful programs for people who have overdosed.

Finally, when it comes to community impact, the report recommends more timely and accurate reporting of opioid-related morbidity and mortality. Additionally, they suggest examining how public resources can be used more effectively to fight the crisis, among other recommendations.

NIH is accepting comments on the draft report through Dec. 5.