Monday, December 12, 2016

WSU professor's sleep research looks to decrease use of opioid painkillers

Posted By on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 2:43 PM

click to enlarge WSU College of Nursing professor Marian Wilson - COURTESY OF WSU
  • Courtesy of WSU
  • WSU College of Nursing professor Marian Wilson

As opiate addiction continues to grab public attention across the country, a Washington State University professor is leading a research project she hopes will give doctors and patients options other than prescription painkillers.

Marian Wilson, a professor in the WSU College of Nursing, is leading a research project aimed at defining the link between sleep and chronic pain.

"There's a small body of literature that suggests that pain and sleep correlate — bad sleep goes with bad pain," she says in a statement. "But we don't know for sure which comes first. 'Is my pain worse because I've slept poorly, or was my pain so bad that I couldn't sleep?'"

Wilson's research is a subproject of a larger study into the effectiveness of self-hypnosis and mindfulness meditation to treat chronic pain among military veterans. The subproject is funded by a federal grant for $305,651 from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Wilson's contribution will focus on sleep patterns of a portion of the veterans participating in the parent study and will include data from sleep-monitoring devices and surveys filled out by participants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with new guidelines for doctors prescribing opioids for pain, which encourages the use of non-opioid pain management and recommends prescribing the lowest possible dosage, when necessary.

The CDC also released data last week showing more a massive spike in opioid-related deaths, with more than 30,000 for the first time in recent history. Notably, the CDC data includes deaths that involve opioids and other drugs.

The data also indicates that deaths related to heroin, a street-level opiate that's typically cheaper option than prescription pain pills, surpassed those attributed to those painkillers such as oxycodone.

Finally, the Washington Post reports, heroin-related deaths surpassed gun homicides in 2015. That's significant considering the fact that gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by about 5-to-1 less than a decade ago.

"We're sending people home from tooth extractions and minor surgeries with a month's supply of opioids," Wilson says, adding that even just two weeks of daily opioid use can cause physical dependence.

"As a result, we've got opioids in almost every house in America and people becoming addicts and ending up in the methadone clinic," she says.
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