How Your Brain Is Wired to Just Say ’Yes’ to Opioids | Alternet
Brain scientists have known for decades that opioids are complex and difficult substances to manage when it comes to addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more than 20 percent of the patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and between 8 and 12 percent of those who use prescription opioids develop a use disorder.
Given how addictive these drugs are, doctors should have foreseen the looming danger of prescription opioids long before their use was liberalized for non-cancer related pain in the 1990s. Opioid abuse has instead ballooned over the last decade. In 2014, federal officials estimated nearly 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain medicines. Each day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for misusing prescription opioids, the CDC reports.
Brain science is only one part of an addiction problem, but, I believe an important one deserving of more consideration than we’ve shown in past drug abuse crises. NIH Director Francis S. Collins has recognized this in his leadership of the medical and scientific response to the opioid use epidemic.
The NIH is taking important steps in building a public-private partnership that will seek scientific solutions to the opioid crisis, including the development of non-opioid painkillers. Collins has committed his agency’s resources in this quest, including implementing the Fast Track and Breakthrough Therapy designations that exist to facilitate development and expedite review of products that address an unmet medical need. The agency is calling for more emphasis on non-drug alternatives for pain, such as medical devices that can deliver more localized analgesia.