September 26, 2014
1 min read

NIH, VA to explore nondrug pain relief for US military, veterans

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The NIH announced it is partnering with the US Department of Veterans Affairs over the next 5 years on 13 research programs totaling $21.7 million to explore nondrug alternatives to pain management and related health disorders in veterans, including posttraumatic stress disorders, drug abuse and sleep disorders.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) are the branches of the NIH that will undertake the research.

In a press release, the NIH cited research published this summer in JAMA Internal Medicine that demonstrated 44% of veterans who were deployed in combat are affected by chronic pain, compared with 26% of the general population. The research also showed that 15% of US post-deployment veterans use opioids, compared with 4% of all Americans. The release also referenced a 2011 Institute of Medicine report that showed nearly 100 million American adults experience chronic pain, which is said to cost about $635 billion per year.

“Pain is the most common reason Americans turn to complementary and integrative health practices,” Josephine P. Briggs, MD, director of NCCAM, said in the release. “The need for nondrug treatment options is a significant and urgent public health imperative. We believe this research will provide much-needed information that will help our military and their family members, and ultimately anyone suffering from chronic pain and related conditions.”

The research projects are aimed at tackling the problems associated with pain management, as well as other disorders associated with post-deployment, such as PTSD, sleep disorders and traumatic brain injury, in addition to the problem of addiction.

“Prescription opioids are important tools for managing pain, but their greater availability and increased prescribing may contribute to their growing misuse,” Nora D. Volkow, MD, director of NIDA and addiction expert, said in the release. “This body of research will add to the growing arsenal of pain management options to give relief while minimizing the potential for abuse, especially for those bravely serving our nation in the armed forces.”

Topics of the research projects include transcranial direct current stimulation, data analysis to developed stepped-care interventions, acceptance and commitment therapy, complementary health approaches such as meditation, and the feasibility of integrating mobile devices with pain management techniques.