Legislators Introduce Initiative to Mitigate Opioid Crisis

January 11, 2018, 9:08 AM HST (Updated January 11, 2018, 9:08 AM)
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U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vermont) and David McKinley (R-West Virginia) introduced the Opioids and STOP Pain Initiative Act, legislation that establishes a new large-scale initiative at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand research on opioid misuse, the understanding of pain, and the discovery of non-addictive, non-opioid alternatives to treat and prevent pain.

“Our country is in the midst of an opioid crisis, and yet we don’t have a solid understanding of how to treat pain without using addictive opioids,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bill will help researchers find alternative treatments for pain so that we can try to stop opioid addiction before it starts. This is a way for us to get serious about stopping the epidemic.”

“The opioid crisis is ravaging communities in Vermont and across the country,” said Rep. Welch. “In addition to helping those on the front lines, it is imperative that we develop non-addictive alternatives to opioids to treat pain. This bipartisan legislation will support the vital research necessary to meet this crisis head on.”

“The opioid epidemic is ravaging rural communities across the nation,” said Rep. McKinley. “Too many families have seen their loved ones fall into a downward spiral after becoming addicted to painkillers, robbing them of their God-given potential. This legislation provides much-needed funding to develop alternatives to opioids for treating severe and chronic pain. These alternatives will help loved ones treat their pain without becoming addicted to opioids. This is a crucial step as we seek to stem the tide of this growing epidemic.”

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The new bill will provide $5 billion dollars over the next five years for the new NIH initiative. The initiative consists of multiple research areas, including the Schatz-Hatch STOP Pain Act, which passed into law in 2016 and directed the NIH to strengthen and coordinate research on the understanding of pain, the development of therapies for chronic pain, and the development of non-opioid alternatives to treat chronic pain.

Today, millions of Americans suffer from pain, both chronic and acute. With few treatment options, medical professionals often prescribe opioids to manage pain relief. Opioids, which include such medications as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone, are classified as narcotics. They have addictive potential and can be dangerous when abused. Over 2.5 million Americans have an opioid use disorder. The national epidemic of opioid dependency and addiction underscores the need for alternative treatments for pain relief.

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