NIH Directors Address Chronic Pain and Opioid Crisis at Annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting

What: On Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, at a press conference at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual Meeting, National Institutes of Health (NIH) directors will discuss how NIH is marshalling resources, primarily through the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, to come up with short- and long-term solutions for countering the pain and opioid crisis.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 50 million adults in the U.S. suffered chronic pain. Meanwhile, the CDC has also estimated that every day an average of 115 people die after overdosing on opioids. Last year, NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and Nora Volkow, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, called for an “all scientific hands on deck” response. In April, NIH nearly doubled its fiscal year 2016 funding for pain and opioid misuse and addiction research to $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2018 by launching the HEAL Initiative, an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis. More specifically, the HEAL Initiative will fund institutions that are either searching for new ways to prevent misuse and treat addiction and overdose or developing novel, non-addictive alternatives, such as biologics and devices for managing pain.

Full story at NIMH

Biochemists develop substances fighting obesity

A team led by biochemistry professor Felix Hausch of the TU Darmstadt is working on substances that are to help fighting three widespread diseases: depression, chronic pain and obesity.

In Germany, around four million people suffer from depression. And according to a study by the Deutsche Schmerzgesellschaft, the German Pain Society, as many as eight to 16 million people are affected by chronic pain. Nor is the situation any better when it comes to our weight: around one in six of us here is obese. Biochemically, there is a link between these three common diseases. Our body produces a protein molecule called FKBP51 that plays an important role both in energy metabolism and in depression and chronic pain.

Felix Hausch, since October 2016 Professor for Structure-Based Drug Discovery at the TU Darmstadt, believes this protein is an interesting point of attack for future medicines. “If you block FKBP51, then the tendency towards depression, obesity and chronic pain should decrease.” As the starting point for the development of inhibitors, Professor Hausch’s team opted for the already approved pharmaceutical substance Tacrolimus, a substance obtainable from bacteria that is known to bind to FKBP51, but also to similar proteins. The researchers changed this substance chemically so that it inhibits FKBP51 even more efficiently, but also only blocks this protein and not any of its relatives.

Full story at Science Daily

Cognitive behavior therapy significantly reduced depression and anxiety in chronic pain patients

The results of a study presented today at the Annual European Congress of Rheumatology (EULAR) 2017 has shown that Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that focuses on psychological flexibility and behaviour change, provided a significant reduction in self-reported depression and anxiety among patients participating in a pain rehabilitation programme.

This treatment also resulted in significant increases in self-efficacy, activity engagement and pain acceptance.

To assess the potential benefits of an 8-week programme of group Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in people with persistent pain, measures of pain acceptance and activity engagement were taken using the Chronic Pain Acceptance Questionnaire. Measures of psychological distress using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and self-efficacy were also taken at assessment, on the final day of the programme, and at the follow up six-month review.

Full story of CBT and depression in chronic pain patients at Science Daily

Half of adults with anxiety or depression report chronic pain

In a survey of adults with anxiety or a mood disorder like depression or bipolar disorder, about half reported experiencing chronic pain, according to researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. The findings are published online in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“The dual burden of chronic physical conditions and mood and anxiety disorders is a significant and growing problem,” said Silvia Martins, MD, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, and senior author.

The research examined survey data to analyze associations between DSM-IV-diagnosed mood and anxiety disorders and self-reported chronic physical conditions among 5,037 adults in São Paulo, Brazil. Participants were also interviewed in person.

Full story of chronic pain related to depression at Science Daily

Study links brain inflammation triggered by chronic pain to anxiety and depression

Brain inflammation caused by chronic nerve pain alters activity in regions that regulate mood and motivation, suggesting for the first time that a direct biophysical link exists between long-term pain and the depression, anxiety and substance abuse seen in more than half of these patients, UC Irvine and UCLA researchers report.

This breakthrough finding also points to new approaches for treating chronic pain, which is second only to bipolar disorder among illness-related causes of suicide. About a quarter of Americans suffer from chronic pain, making it the most common form of enduring illness for those under the age of 60. The Institute of Medicine estimates that this costs our society more than $635 billion per year.

In work with rodents, Catherine Cahill, associate professor of anesthesiology & perioperative care at UCI, Christopher Evans of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute, and colleagues discovered that pain-derived brain inflammation causes the accelerated growth and activation of immune cells called microglia. These cells trigger chemical signals within neurons that restrict the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.

Full story of brain inflammation and chronic pain at Science Daily