The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced 13 research projects totaling approximately $21.7 million over five years to explore non-drug approaches to pain management and related health conditions in U.S. military personnel, veterans, and their families. Funding is provided by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Services Research and Development Division.

A report in June 2014 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine reported that members of the U.S. military after combat deployment had significantly higher rates of chronic pain compared to the general public (44% vs. 26%, respectively). The same study found that 15% of U.S. military personnel use opioids post-deployment, while only 4% of the general public reported the use of these medications.

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The new research project topics include, among others:

  • Transcranial direct current stimulation with cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of pain, opioid use, and related health issues;
  • Morning bright light treatment to reduce and help manage chronic low-back pain and improve post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, mood, and sleep in veterans;
  • Acceptability and practicality of an interactive mindfulness meditation training program using Web-based platforms and mobile apps with active duty soldiers being treated for chronic pain; and
  • Efficacy of self-hypnosis and mindfulness meditation to education for reducing pain and improving quality of life in veterans, including testing of biological, psychological, and social factors such as brain activity, expectation, and physician-patient relationships that could explain the impact of the effects of the interventions.

Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director of NIDA stated that this research will hopefully shed light on alternate pain management options while minimizing the potential for abuse of prescription medications for chronic pain.

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