WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has helped secure $10 million as a part of the Senate’s Defense Appropriations Bill to establish a program at the Department of Defense (DOD) to research opioid alternatives or non-addictive methods to treat and manage chronic pain. The funds were included as part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) within the Senate’s Defense Appropriations which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this month. Brown led a letter in April urging the committee to include these finds in their bill. It will now go to the full Senate for consideration and Brown is urging Congress to pass this legislation immediately.

“When it’s easier for Americans to get their hands on opioids than it is for them to access non-addictive alternatives and treatments, we have a serious problem,” Brown said. “Opioid addiction is a chronic disease and even our brave servicemembers are not immune – so we need to develop and ensure that there are a variety of non-addictive methods available so we can help prevent addiction before it takes hold.”

The CDMRP would drive innovation in the medical community and seek to find solutions for medical challenges facing servicemembers. The creation of this research program would focus on chronic pain management as well as treatment caused by service-related injuries and stress in order to develop therapies to prevent abuse and dependence on opioids and other addictive substances.

Servicemembers can suffer from chronic pain that is often attributed to a multitude of factors, both combat-related and stress-related as a result their service to our country.

With few options outside of prescription opioids, members of the military can be reliant on highly addictive substances, such as opioids, to manage this pain. The Department of Veterans Affairs released a study in 2016 that shows veterans who receive the highest doses of opioid painkillers are twice as likely to die by suicide as those who receive lower doses. Over the past 12 years, there has been an increase in prescriptions for opioids among veterans by over 270 percent, which shows the growing use of these highly addictive substances. The risks of servicemembers and veterans becoming addicted to opioids are both a combat readiness challenge and a significant challenge for family and communities that rely on and support them while serving and after.