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Brief Description

Chronic pain is a major public health problem. It affects more than one-third of the U.S. and 20%-30% of the world's population. Prevalence of persistent pain is expected to rise with the increase in diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, obesity, arthritis and cancer in the aging U.S. population. Opioids can produce significant side effects such as respiratory depression, mental clouding, nausea, constipation and physical dependence. Opioid prescribing has increased 300% in the last 20 years. Today, the number of people who die from prescription opioids exceeds the number from heroin and cocaine combined

Chronic pain affects an estimated 100 million Americans, or one third of the U.S. population, and it is the primary reason Americans are on disability. Although many treatments are available for pain, the number of prescriptions for opioid pain relievers has increased dramatically in recent years. Similarly, there has been an increase in both treatment admissions for prescription opioid addiction as well as accidental overdoses.  As a result, NIDA is working with the public health community to ensure effective and safe management  of pain. This section looks at many of these initiatives.

Explaining Pain

The NIH Institute and Center Directors who co-chair the NIH Pain Consortium discuss the importance of collaboration in pain research, as well as research priorities for their individual science programs.

Pain Awareness Month: Dr. Nora Volkow on Pain Research and Opioids

Pain Awareness Month: Dr. Walter Koroshetz on Pain Research Initiatives

Pain Awareness Month: Dr. Martha Somerman on Pain Consortium and Chronic Pain Research


Pain Awareness Month: Dr. Josephine Briggs on Alternative Approaches to Pain Management


Pain Awareness Month: Dr. Patricia Grady on Pain Management Research and Patient Care


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This page was last updated October 2014

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    NIDA (2014). Pain. Retrieved , from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/pain

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