Focused Ultrasound Could be a Key to Addressing the US Opioid Crisis


opioid crisis graphic 16x9From 1999 to 2016, the number of overdose deaths in the United States involving opioids increased more than five-fold, from 8,050 to 42,250. The addiction crisis is in large part due to the overuse of prescription opioids as the primary pain management tool for many of the 50 million US adults with chronic pain. Major efforts are underway by the federal government to stem this crisis, with the development of safer, non-opioid treatment options for pain as a key component.

Recent reports from the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force (Task Force) highlight the importance of identifying alternatives for chronic pain management. The NSTC noted that “there is a need to develop pharmacological and non-pharmacological pain treatments without euphoric and addictive effects, including innovative devices to treat pain without medications.” Furthermore, as indicated by the Task Force, “additional research and more specific data establishing the clinical benefits of specific interventional procedures for specific pain conditions would be beneficial and can further identify various procedures for specific clinical conditions, particularly for certain populations, such as children.”

In parallel to these executive branch activities, legislative efforts led to the eventual passage of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which was recently signed into law. A bipartisan provision included in the law directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create a program to award grants to hospitals and emergency departments “to develop, implement, enhance, or study alternatives to opioids for pain management in such settings.”

It is clear that the role of non-opioid pain treatments like focused ultrasound are key to reducing the reliance on opioids for pain relief. This presents a timely opportunity for focused ultrasound therapy, which has been shown to be effective in suppressing or stimulating nerve activity with the potential for relieving both acute and chronic pain.

Please follow along for updates in this area to learn about new programs for research funding that are expected to come out of these federal efforts, beginning with those listed below: