The NIH Strategic Planning Committee: Contributions of Social and Behavioral Research in Addressing the Opioid Crisis (CSBR-AOC)

The CSBR-AOC is a NIH-wide committee charged with identifying resources, goals, potential areas for further development, activities, and other strategies to identify opportunities for the behavioral and social sciences to contribute to the broader NIH mission to combat the opioid and pain crises.

In March 2018, OBSSR and its partners (the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities) supported a Helping to End Addiction Long-term℠ Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative℠, meeting on Contributions of Social and Behavioral Research in Addressing the Opioid Crisis. In response to that meeting, a NIH-wide committee was formed to encourage important social and behavioral research relevant to addressing the opioid crisis, both within the NIH HEAL Initiative and across various NIH pain and opioid initiatives, and to identify resources needed by the behavioral and social sciences research community to accelerate research in these important areas. Membership consisted of 29 appointed members representing 21 of the NIH Institutes and Centers and 5 Office of the Director (OD) Offices or Programs. (See Appendix C for CSBR-AOC roster of members).

Among the activities and deliverables of the CSBR-AOC are:

NIH Funding Opportunities Related to BSSR and the Opioid Crisis

As the NIH HEAL Initiative projects were being developed, the CSBR-AOC assisted in incorporating behavioral and social sciences research (BSSR) in these projects as appropriate. BSSR-related Funding Opportunity Announcements can be found on the HEAL website. Awards made by the NIH HEAL Initiative, searchable by keywords and topic areas, can be found here.

Among the many NIH HEAL Initiative projects with BSSR relevance is the recent HEAL Initiative: Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) regarding the Availability of Administrative Supplements to Support Strategies to Reduce Stigma in Pain Management and Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) and Treatment. This Notice of Special Interest (NOSI) calls for research on stigma in the context of chronic pain management and opioid use or opioid use disorder (OUD). As part of the HEAL Initiative, NIH will support supplements to current HEAL awards to address the challenges for people affected by the opioid crisis from stigma, discrimination, and prejudice related to chronic pain management in the context of opioid use and/or opioid use disorder and its treatment. This NOSI calls for applications that integrate and incorporate stigma research into ongoing HEAL-funded chronic pain and OUD studies in order to address stigma that is occurring in the context of chronic pain and/or OUD. Because stigma research may require large clinical or community networks, the supplement program is designed to leverage the many networks already being developed through HEAL awards. This supplement program is not intended to support research on basic processes (e.g., cultural attitudes) but rather to result in strategies to enable rapid implementation of changes.

Workshop on Measurement of Pain: Behavioral, Social, and Biological Factors

As a result of recommendations from the March 2018 meeting, the NIH-wide CSBR-AOC recognized the priority of advancing pain measurement approaches and conducted the workshop: Measurement of Pain: Behavioral, Social, and Biological Factors February 13–14, 2020. This meeting aimed to inform the behavioral and social sciences research community, stakeholders, and NIH Institutes and Centers about cutting-edge ways to measure chronic pain and what research is needed to develop, test, and validate the next generation of pain measures. Objectives included describing major influences on current pain measurement instruments and identifying steps to move toward more accurate and comprehensive measurement of pain experiences.

Additional Information from the NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices Related to Behavioral and Social Sciences and the Opioid and Pain Crises

The CSBR-AOC members coordinated an effort to provide detailed examples to demonstrate the varied behavioral and social sciences activities occurring across the NIH in the pain and opioid research areas. These examples are described in Appendix B.

Appendix A: CSBR-AOC: Strategic Planning Committee Roster

Appendix B: Fact Sheet that Highlights BSSR activities in the Opioid and Pain Research Areas 

Appendix C: NIH Institute, Center and Office Efforts in the Pain and Opioid Related Research Areas (submitted by the NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices)