Chronic Pain Management and the Opioid Crisis

September 3, 2018 Joe Brady

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are calling for more targeted research on alternative treatments for chronic pain management. The opioid epidemic, pain, addiction; and mental health problems require a coordinated scientific effort if we are to stem the tide of opioid deaths in the U.S. For our part we are conducting a pilot study on lifelong learning and health promotion in conjunction with DU’s OLLI program and the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

NIH recently launched the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) initiative. The initiative is designed to speed NIH research to enhance pain management and improve treatments for opioid addiction (more information is available on the HEAL website). The research includes the development of the nasal form of naloxone, the most commonly used nasal spray for reversing opioid overdose and improving the evidence base for the use of mind/body techniques such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and mindfulness meditation to help patients control and manage pain. This fall we will be working with DU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, developing content for public education on evidence-based alternatives and integrative medicine approaches to chronic pain. Feedback from students will be presented at Harvard Medical School’s Osher Institute of Integrative Medicine in November.

The research plan for HEAL is outlined in a JAMA’s Helping to End Addiction Over the Long-term The Research Plan for the NIH HEAL Initiative

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD1; Walter J. Koroshetz, MD2; Nora D. Volkow, MD3

Funding for Alternatives in Pain Research

Congress added $500 million to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), starting in 2018. The NIH will invest these much-needed resources to support science that advances national priorities for addiction and pain research2 with a bold new trans-NIH initiative called Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL).

Activities/themes pertinent to NCCIH: 

  • Identifying new treatment options for addiction and optimizing effective existing therapies
  • Enhancing Pain management, via ian mproved understanding of chronic pain and developing new, nonaddictive pain treatments. 

In a recent “fireside chat” between NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams; calls for changes in how we approach discussing chronic pain with patients and to examine factors such as trauma, environment, and stigma in a person’s pain. He also discussed the need for implementation science to optimize the evidence-based treatments in health care systems.

In closing, I invite you to attend a four-week lecture series at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine where we will discuss the role of traditional Chinese medicine in treating pain in the modern world and addressing the need for alternatives in medicine.

Community Med School First Class

Exploring the Promise of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Four Saturday’s Sept 8, 15, 22, 29 1:00-1:30 pm. Cost is $40

Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1441 York St. Denver, CO 80206

To Register Send us an Email at