Today, NIDA is releasing several new funding opportunity announcements related to the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative℠. Researchers now can submit proposals for major projects funded through NIH HEAL℠ in the areas of preventing opioid use disorder (OUD), improving OUD care in justice settings, determining the appropriate duration of treatment with medications to treat OUD, and better understanding how to manage mild or moderate OUD.
Older adolescents and young adults (ages 16-30) are the group at highest risk for opioid initiation, misuse, OUD, and death from overdose, so targeting this age group for prevention interventions could have a sizeable impact on reducing the toll of opioid misuse and addiction. The research project called Preventing At-Risk Adolescents from Developing Opioid Use Disorder as they Transition into Adulthood will develop and test strategies to prevent initiation of opioid misuse and development of OUD in different healthcare settings (including primary care, emergency departments, urgent care, HIV/STI clinics, and school or college health clinics) as well as workplaces and justice settings. NIDA will fund a suite of integrated studies developing, testing, and validating screening and prevention tools in areas most affected by the opioid crisis or with indicators of an emerging crisis. For more information on funding opportunities related to this project, see the funding opportunity announcements for the Coordinating Center and research studies.
Criminal Justice System
Substantial research over the past several years has highlighted the consequences of untreated OUD in justice-involved populations—for instance, the high rates of overdose death among people recently released from prison—as well as showing the benefits of treating opioid-addicted prisoners using medication. It remains unknown what specific strategies are most effective at addressing opioid addiction in this population and reducing adverse outcomes. As part of the HEAL Initiative, NIDA will fund the creation of a network of researchers who can rapidly conduct studies aimed at exploring the effectiveness and adoption of medications, interventions, and technologies in justice settings. The Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network will implement a survey of addiction treatment delivery services in local and state justice systems around the country and will develop new research methods to ensure that treatment interventions have the maximum impact. For more information, please see the funding opportunity announcements for the Coordination and Translation Center, Methodology and Advanced Analytics Resource Center, and the research centers.
Small Business Innovation
Through two funding opportunity announcements under the heading of America’s Startups and Small Businesses Build Technologies to Stop the Opioid Crisis, NIDA is also inviting small businesses to submit grant applications to develop new biomedical technologies to aid in addressing opioid addiction. Small biomedical companies are encouraged to apply for either small business innovation research (SBIR) or small business technology transfer (STTR) grant applications. For more information, see the SBIR and STTR funding opportunity announcements.
In addition to the above referenced projects, NIDA will be partnering with other NIH institutes and centers on several opioid-related research projects. HEAL funds will also be used to answer some important research questions to address the opioid crisis. For example, NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network (CTN) will be utilized to determine the optimal length of medication treatment for opioid addiction and to identify treatment strategies to manage patients who present to primary or integrated care settings with low-level opioid misuse or OUD. Finally, HEAL funds are being considered to support a longitudinal study to understand the consequences of pre- and postnatal opioid and other substance exposure on the developing brain and behavior.
A silver lining of the dark cloud of the opioid crisis is that it has galvanized communities, healthcare systems, and government agencies to take significant steps toward ending opioid misuse and addiction in a compassionate, science-based way. The funds granted by Congress as part of the NIH HEAL℠. Initiative will accelerate scientific solutions to the crisis and generate new knowledge that will prevent future drug crises, as well as inform many other areas of medicine and public health. Information related to these projects is available on the NIH site.
See also: NIDA's Role in the NIH HEAL initiative℠