Stories of Medical Innovation

Seeking Solutions: Confronting the Opioid Crisis

America has a problem with pain and a love of prescription painkillers.

Michael Nader, PhD, a professor of physiology and pharmacology, is co-director of the Center along with Mark Wolfson, PhD, professor of social sciences and health policy.

The Center funds translational research pilot awards for competitive studies focusing on preclinical models, population research and clinical-translational research. Established for School of Medicine researchers, the Center encourages multi-departmental and collaborative projects.

Nader studies how drugs affect the brain while Wolfson researches the role of public policy as it relates to drug use and abuse.

“As you can see, we have very diverse backgrounds,” Nader says. “That’s one of the hallmarks of our Center. The goal is to get basic scientists, clinicians and population-based researchers in the same room to talk about a common problem, and there are a lot of people at this institution who are interested in substance abuse research.”

“Yes, there are,” Wolfson adds, noting that the Center already has 66 members from more than 14 departments.

“That’s really the main focus of the Center,” Nader says.

Given the scope of the opioid epidemic in the United States, a lot of the Center’s energy focuses on finding solutions to the crisis. Center members are working on a variety of opioid studies including the effectiveness of organized community strategies, peer-support programs, pain-management alternatives and experimental analgesics.