NIH Awards Wake Forest University School of Medicine $4 Million Grant to Study Chronic Pain and Opioid Use Disorder

April 25, 2022

Meredith Adams, MD, associate professor of anesthesiology, looks at the camera as she sits as a desk with her laptop open

Between 40% and 60% of patients who have an opioid use disorder (OUD) also experience chronic pain. While both of these conditions have been studied separately, very little research has been done to address the needs of patients who have both.

To fill this gap, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have been awarded a five-year, $4 million grant through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Helping End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) initiative.

With the grant, researchers will create an Integrative Management of Chronic Pain and OUD for Whole Recovery (IMPOWR): Coordination Center for a network of clinical research centers that includes the University of New Mexico, Yale University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh.

Through the Center, the School of Medicine will coordinate and support the network in the development, evaluation and implementation of patient-centered interventions with each research center conducting two to three clinical trials.

“Traditionally, treatments for these conditions have been very siloed,” said Dr. Meredith C.B. Adams, principal investigator and assistant professor of anesthesiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “There are interventions to treat chronic pain. There are interventions for opioid use, misuse or disorder, but what about treatments for people who have both? Our objective is to find effective interventions to make sure we’re addressing patient pain while also avoiding an escalation of opioid use disorder.”

Another key component of the project will be decreasing stigma associated with these conditions, improving health equity and diminishing health disparities through educational development. 

“Part of addressing this crisis is understanding patient and community needs,” Adams said. “Many people with co-occurring chronic pain and opioid use disorder do not seek treatment because of the stigma associated with these conditions. We hope to change that.”

The NIH HEAL initiative, which launched in 2018, was created to find scientific solutions to stem the national opioid and pain public health crises.

Media Contact: Myra Wright, mgwright@wakehealth.edu336-713-8806