- Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have found a non-opioid pain pathway in the brain.
- The pathway is triggered when people practice mindfulness meditation.
- The findings could lead to new pain relief regimens that combine mindfulness-based approaches with ones that rely on opioid signaling.
In the study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, healthy adults were randomized to one of four treatment groups: Meditation plus the opioid antidote drug naloxone; control plus naloxone; meditation plus saline; and control plus saline. Subjects in the meditation groups experienced significantly lower pain intensity and unpleasantness than controls.
The study also showed that naloxone didn’t diminish meditation’s pain-relieving effects. The research received funding from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Developing treatments that reduce the need for high-power opioids could help to curb the tide in opioid misuse and abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids contributed to 28,648 deaths in 2014. In 2012, the number of opioid prescriptions was 259 million.
Earlier this month, HHS announced $94 million in ACA funding to 271 healthcare centers to help curb prescription opioid and heroin misuse — with a focus on rural and underserved populations. That was followed Tuesday by CDC guidelines aimed at reducing the number of opioid prescriptions written by primary care providers.
Lawmakers also are calling for tighter controls over opioid pain relievers. The bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, passed by the Senate last week, is awaiting action in the House.