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New institute seeks to tackle the US opioid crisis

$3 million will be spent over the next three years to launch the Opioid Research Institute and research projects.

Major drug companies announced they garnered approval for opioid settlements worth nearly $25 billion in one of the most complex legal struggles in US history
Major drug companies announced they garnered approval for opioid settlements worth nearly $25 billion in one of the most complex legal struggles in US history - Copyright AFP Charly TRIBALLEAU
Major drug companies announced they garnered approval for opioid settlements worth nearly $25 billion in one of the most complex legal struggles in US history - Copyright AFP Charly TRIBALLEAU

The extent of the crisis is such that there are 200 deaths per day across the U.S. To address the crisis new research is needed to support prevention and treatment programmes. According to the CDC, overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. The majority of overdose deaths involve opioids. These include the use of synthetic opioids (largely illicitly made fentanyl) and stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine) have increased in recent years.

As an example, drug overdose deaths rose from 2019 to 2021 with more than 106,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2021 (these are the most recent available figures).

There is an imperative to reduce the harms of opioid use, including death by overdose and transmission of infectious diseases.

One report recommends that states implement laws and policies that remove barriers to access to naloxone and safe injection equipment by permitting providers and pharmacists to prescribe, dispense, or distribute naloxone to laypersons, third parties, and first responders together with permitting the sale or distribution of syringes.

University of Michigan has launched a new transdisciplinary institute to support to opioid research. An important part of the initiative is to seek out collaborations and strengthen community engagement in order to find solutions to address the U.S. opioid overdose crisis.

$3 million will be spent over the next three years to launch the Opioid Research Institute and research projects will look into opioid misuse treatment and prevention.

The institute will be led by Professors Amy Bohnert and Chad Brummett, who have collectively studied opioids over the past two decades. The two academics will lead the institute as inaugural co-directors. Bohnert and Brummett have published more than 300 opioid-related scientific papers and collaborated with health care providers, hospitals, insurers, patients and communities to improve care across the state of Michigan.

According to Rebecca Cunningham, U-M vice president: “Opioid overdose deaths across Michigan have increased tenfold since 2000, and unfortunately this medical illness continues to ravage families and communities across both peninsulas.”

She adds: “An epidemic of this magnitude requires evidence-based solutions so that, in partnership with communities, our researchers can help identify what programs and services are most effective in reducing opioid-related overdoses and deaths.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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