Research Needed to Solve Opioid Crisis, Find Alternatives For Pain Relief

Among the greatest challenges the world is currently facing is the runaway abuse of illegal drugs. Drug abuse is a problem that is affecting people the world over, from the rich to the poor, and in all age groups. Because of the increase in drug abuse, global crime rates, terrorism and corruption have skyrocketed within the last few years. For the few who the drug trade has created substantial wealth, there are many more that it has destroyed. It has led to the loss of millions of lives and destabilized communities across the globe.

Nonprofits looking for grants for research into this problem of epidemic proportions can find them on GrantWatch.

Opiates are extremely addictive because of the high, experienced when the drugs interact with the brain. So addictive are these drugs that they can cause addiction within three days of use. Medical professionals at opiate rehab facilities need more insight on to positive ways to treat the addiction.

“Opioid misuse and addiction is an ongoing and rapidly evolving public health crisis, requiring innovative scientific solutions,” writes Nora D. Volkow, M.D. and Francis S. Collins, MD PhD in their article “The Role of Science in Addressing the Opioid Crisis.” Research is needed to find medications that will work with patients that are not so highly addictive as well as developing better overdose-reversal and prevention interventions to reduce mortality, saving lives for future treatment and recovery.  Research is also needed to find new, innovative medications and technologies to treat opioid addiction; and find safe, effective, nonaddictive interventions to manage chronic pain. “Each of these areas requires a range of short-, intermediate-, and long-term research strategy.”

Opioid Abuse 

Medication or drugs that combine with the opioid receptors in the brain are referred to as opioids. Previously this term was used to describe synthetic opioid receptor binding drugs but has now been expanded to also include opiates derived from natural sources.

  • Naturally occurring opioids are derived from opium which is obtained from the poppy plant. These include morphine and codeine.
  • Semi-synthetic opioids describe naturally occurring opioids that have undergone some level of chemical alteration in the laboratory. These include hydrocodone and oxycodone.
  • Synthetic opioids describe opioids that have been entirely manufactured in the laboratory, mimicking the chemical makeup of the naturally derived opioids. An example of these is fentanyl.

Statistics from the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) show that over two million US residents are addicted to opioids. These statistics also indicate that on the average ninety Americans succumb to opioid addiction on a daily basis.

Long term use of opioids is known to be a major cause of degradative behavior within many communities and society at large, not to mention the effects that the drug has on the body of the user and their overall wellbeing.

The Use of Medical Marijuana in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction

Various studies have shown that medical marijuana may be a suitable alternative for opioids for the management of pain. “Compounds that target nonopioid pain pathways, such as the endocannabinoid system, are also being evaluated for pain management. There is strong evidence of the efficacy of cannabinoids, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in treating pain. Medications that target the endocannabinoid system without producing the cognitive impairment and rewarding effects of marijuana could provide a powerful new tool,” according to Volkow and Collins.

Increasing the use of medical marijuana for therapeutic purposes could be one of the ways of reducing over reliance on prescription opioids for many a patient. The resulting interaction between opioids and marijuana has been a topic of exploration for decades in both clinical and pharmacological levels. However there is still a lot of research being done on the potential marijuana has in the modulation of the addictive effects of opioids, which are a much harder class of drugs. Those going to an opiate rehab may benefit from medical marijuana or its extracts.

The Importance Of Research Grants For Substance Abuse 

The crisis that is caused by opioid abuse results in significant costs to society with regard to the productivity lost, social disorder, and the overall utilization of healthcare. Research has been the main method used to access the treatment methods available for opioid addictions, giving more insights into the addiction itself. Through research, the traditional methods of treatment were able to be effective to the needs of the time, and any research going forward will be essential in understanding the potential marijuana has to modulate the addictive aspects of opioids.

More research into substance abuse is needed given the level to which it effects society. Although the findings of such research can be monetized by a few entities, it is largely aimed at benefiting the millions of people who are not able to access privatized treatment for substance abuse. Grants in this sector would enable the projects to access better scientific tools, equipment, and manpower ensuring better chances of success.

Amazing discoveries have been made on account of scientific advances into the effects of addiction on the brain. The continued influx of funding, in the form of grants, directed toward research will enable the development of fast and effective treatments that deal with the core pathology of addiction. The discovery of new diagnostic markers will also aid in identifying the issues early and intervening at the right time.

Although institutes such as NIDA (National Institutes on Drug Abuse) might have the required tools of research, they still need adequate funding in order to realize the ambitious goal of finding treatment for opioid addiction.

Having trouble finding funding for your scientific, medical and academic research? Find grants to apply for on for your organization or institution.

About the Author: Dale is a writer and researcher in the fields of mental health and substance abuse. After a battle with addiction Dale was able to become the first person in his family to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Dale likes to write about these issues to help reduce the stigma associate with both. You can find more of his work on Twitter


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