Healing Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction

By Jennifer Nozawa, public relations specialist, College of Social Work

Eric Garland, associate dean for research at the College of Social Work, has been appointed by Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, to the Multidisciplinary Working Group focused on a $1.1 billion federal effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the opioid crisis.

The Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative’s working group—comprised of 16 national experts on issues of pain and addiction research—is part of NIH’s efforts to “bring the very best science to the task of addressing our national crisis of opioid addiction and chronic pain,” explained Collins.

The working group is charged with providing input on HEAL research, drafting recommendations for various NIH institute and federal advisory committees, prioritizing future research areas, increasing harmonization across HEAL research projects, offering input on proposed funding plans and providing a public venue for discussion of HEAL research by stakeholders, among other tasks.

Garland is director of the Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development (C-MIIND) and the developer of Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), an innovative mind-body therapy designed to address addiction, pain and stress.

His current research program, supported by more than $35 million in grant funding, focuses on testing MORE and other behavioral therapies for chronic pain and opioid misuse. In addition to providing care to hundreds of study participants, his work is also contributing to a deeper understanding of the neuroscience behind pain, addictive behaviors and their effects on reward processing in the brain.

“I am deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve on this national working group,” said Garland. “The current opioid crisis is one of the greatest and most urgent public health issues confronting society today. I’m tremendously honored to work closely with NIH and contribute what I’ve learned to advance scientific solutions to this grand challenge.”