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NIH Grants for SUDs, Why?

The treatment is cost-effective: for every $1 spent on treatments, up to $12 is saved in legal and healthcare costs.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) affect people from all walks of life and all age groups. These illnesses are common, recurrent, and often serious, but they are treatable, and many people recover. SUDs occur when the recurrent use of drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) describes addiction as the most severe form of a SUD (

SUDs are now recognized as chronic brain diseases, with the potential for both recovery and relapse. The economic toll of SUDs is staggering and is estimated to be more than $740 billion annually. The life expectancy in the United States has declined over the past few years, due in large part to an annual increase in lives cut short by opioid overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER), opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,088 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady in 2018 with 46,802 deaths. This was followed by a significant increase in 2019 to 49,860 overdose deaths. Opioid overdoses in the US likely reached a record high in 2020 due to COVID-19 causing increased substance use, exacerbating stress and social isolation, and interfering with opioid treatment.

Like other chronic brain diseases, SUDs are treatable and can be successfully managed. The treatment is cost-effective: for every $1 spent on treatments, up to $12 is saved in legal and healthcare costs.

Moreover, recent cost-effectiveness studies demonstrated that the use of medications, combined with contingency management, overdose education, and naloxone distribution to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), leads to significant health benefits and cost savings compared with no treatment. Research has also shown that for most patients, the combination of medication and behavioral therapy ensures the best chance of success. There is a continuing need for broadly effective and disseminated medications for SUDs, especially for cocaine and other stimulant use disorder (STUD) and cannabis use disorder (CUD).


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