We have a public health mandate to stop the devastating scourge of drug abuse and addiction afflicting this country. Translating the knowledge we have gained into new medications could revolutionize the way we treat addiction and even how we prevent drug abuse from occurring in the first place. It is a gaping need.
Thousands of individuals seeking treatment for drug abuse will benefit from the NIDA Blending Initiative, which is designed to accelerate scientific findings into clinical practice. As the leading NIH Institute studying addiction, NIDA's commitment to bridging the gap between research and practice has resulted in the development of innovative tools to put directly in the hands of front-line treatment providers at nearly the same time that research results are published in peer-reviewed journals.
When two disorders or illnesses occur simultaneously in the same person, they are called comorbid. Surveys show that drug abuse and other mental illnesses are often comorbid. Six out of ten people with a substance use disorder also suffer from another form of mental illness. But the high prevalence of these comorbidities does not mean that one condition caused the other, even if one appeared first. In fact, there are at least three scenarios that we should consider:
Heroin, morphine, and some prescription painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, Vicodin, and Fentanyl) belong to the class of drugs known as opiates. They act on specific (opiate) receptors in the brain, which also interact with naturally produced substances known as endorphins or enkephalins– important in regulating pain and emotion. And while prescription painkillers are highly beneficial medications when used as prescribed, opiates as a general class of drugs have significant abuse liability.