Fireside Chat Between NIH, NIDA Heads Addresses COVID-19, the HEAL Initiative, and the Opioids Crisis

Francis S. Collins, Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Nora Volkow, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), discussed the latest developments of the Helping to End Addiction Long-termSM Initiative, or NIH HEAL InitiativeSM at a virtual plenary session at this year’s Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.

Speaking from their homes, on April 16, Collins and Volkow answered questions from the NIH HEAL Initiative’s community and addressed how the COVID-19 pandemic poses unique challenges to people with pain and substance use disorders.

“We did want very much to be part of your virtual experience this year,” Collins said. “To talk to you about what…NIH is doing, especially about our initiative called HEAL, Helping to End Addiction Long-term, which is directing nearly $1 billion to researchers and communities all over the country, including many people who are probably listening.”

The conversation began with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities across the country, and how it is colliding with the public health crisis of substance use disorders.

“It’s one of the issues of greatest concern for all of us who are working in the field of substance use disorders,” said Volkow. “We have not been able to contain the epidemic of opioid fatalities, and all of us then were hit by this tsunami of COVID, and we immediately can recognize the unique challenges of people having an addiction.”

Collins, then, proceeded to answer questions submitted by some of the more than 15,000 subscribers to the initiative’s website.

Watch the Virtual plenary with Francis Collins and Nora Volkow on HEAL, the opioid crisis and COVID-19.