As the nation continues to battle an epidemic of addiction and overdose related to opioids and other drugs, several teams of IHPI researchers have received millions of dollars in new federal funding to address the issue head-on.
ANN ARBOR — As the nation continues to battle an epidemic of addiction and overdose related to opioids and other drugs, several teams of University of Michigan researchers have received millions of dollars in new federal funding to address the issue head-on.
The grants will allow the teams to carry out innovative projects that will test new ways of understanding, preventing and treating addiction, and addressing pain through new approaches.
The funds were announced today by the National Institutes of Health as part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative. Launched in April 2018, the initiative aims to improve prevention and treatment strategies for opioid misuse and addiction and enhance pain management.
The grants to U-M are among 375 funding awards to teams in 41 states aimed at improving treatments for chronic pain, curbing the rates of opioid use disorder and overdose, and achieving long-term recovery from opioid addiction.
“It’s clear that a multipronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective nonopioid therapies for pain, and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, who launched the initiative in early 2018. “This unprecedented investment in the NIH HEAL Initiative demonstrates the commitment to reversing this devastating crisis.”
The grants to U-M teams that include IHPI members are:
$6.9 million for emergency department-based opioid risk screening and virtual counseling for teens and young adults
Past U-M research has shown the power of asking patients about their drug use when they’re visiting a hospital for emergency care -- which may be one of their only interactions with the health care system. The approach uses a technique called motivational interviewing, a brief discussion designed to spur teens and young adults to cut back on their use or seek addiction help, when needed.
Based on the earlier success of this approach, the new funds will support a randomized controlled trial involving health coaches who will connect via video chat with young people during their emergency visits, and via secure web chat through a patient portal. The researchers are led by Maureen Walton, Ph.D. and Erin Bonar, Ph.D. of the Department of Psychiatry at Michigan Medicine, the U-M Addiction Center, and the U-M Injury Prevention Center. They will conduct the study at the Michigan Medicine emergency department including involvement by Rebecca Cunningham and Patrick Carter in Emergency Medicine, as well as a number of colleagues from across the university (Frederic Blow, Amy Bohnert, Sarah Clark, Kelley Kidwell, Cheryl King, Sean McCabe, Lisa Prosser, & Terri Voepel-Lewis).
“Using health coaches and technology to interact with adolescents and young adults regarding their opioid use can allow for real-time tailoring within the rapidly changing opioid epidemic,” says Walton. “We hope this approach will produce a sustainable impact to prevent escalation of opioid misuse in young people.”
$4.7 million for telehealth-based treatment for adults with both opioid use disorder and chronic pain
This project aims to help people who have both chronic pain and opioid use disorder—a combination of conditions that can make it hard for them to overcome opioid problems, even when they’re taking proven addiction treatment medications.
Half of all people who currently receive medications for opioid use disorder (also called medication-assisted treatment) have chronic pain. And many people with both conditions live far from major medical centers, including veterans living far from VA hospitals.
The new project will test a telephone-based “talk therapy” pain management program in people with both conditions, to help them control their pain while staying on the medications that can treat their opioid use disorder. The project, led by Mark Ilgen and Lewei (Allison) Lin of the U-M Department of Psychiatry and VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, will include a clinical trial in 100 veterans and 100 adults in the community, to look at the short- and long-term effects of the approach.
“We hope to provide information not only on the effectiveness of the intervention, but also the barriers and facilitators to future implementation of this approach for others,” said Ilgen, director of U-M Addiction Treatment Services. He and Lin are members of the U-M Addiction Center and U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
$900,000 to design and test an intervention to support effective delivery of an evidence-based health curriculum for drug use prevention in high school
Interventions rarely achieve public health outcomes, such as reduced drug use, without implementation support. Andria Eisman, research assistant professor in health behavior and health education at the U-M School of Public Health, focuses on designing strategies that are both effective and cost-effective. For this project, she plans to work with community partners to tailor the curriculum specifically to meet the needs of youth who have experienced trauma and disadvantage and are at risk for drug use and its consequences.
These projects are just the latest in a wide range of opioid-related research and innovation that U-M teams are engaged in. Two other U-M teams received funding through the NIH Heal Initiative in the new round, and several teams received NIH HEAL Initiative funding in 2018 as well.
To see all the opioid-related work going on at U-M, visit U-M Opioid Solutions.