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Office of Neuroscience Research > WUSTL Neuroscience News > Strategy to battle opioid epidemic encourages multilevel approach

Strategy to battle opioid epidemic encourages multilevel approach

From the WashU Newsroom...

Years of coordinated efforts will be required to contain and reverse the harmful societal effects of the country’s ongoing prescription and illicit opioid epidemic, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). The report, requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and published July 13, said it is possible to stem the still-escalating epidemic without eliminating access to opioids for patients who suffer from pain and whose providers prescribe the drugs responsibly.

The 18-person committee that authored the report recommended actions the FDA, other federal agencies, state and local governments, and health-related organizations should take — including promoting more judicious prescribing of opioids, expanding access to treatment for opioid-use disorder, preventing more overdose deaths, weighing societal impacts in opioid-related regulatory decisions, and investing in research to better understand the nature of pain and develop nonaddictive alternatives.

The committee was composed of experts involved in different aspects of pain management and opioid-use disorders. Among them was Jose A. Moron-Concepcion, associate professor of anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He studies the emotional component of pain and opioid receptors that modulate the sensory component of pain and the negative emotions associated with it. He discussed some of the key points addressed in the new report:

What is the status of the ongoing epidemic?

We were asked to characterize the epidemic and recommend actions the FDA and other organizations should take to respond. Overall, we found that the opioid epidemic is getting worse. Each day, 90 individuals in the United States die from an overdose that involves an opioid. Trends indicate that premature deaths associated with the use of opioids are likely to climb and that opioid overdose and other opioid-related harms will dramatically reduce the quality of life for many people in years to come.

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