This is Archived Content

This content is available for historical purposes only. It may not reflect the current state of science or language from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Find the latest information on substance use, health, and NIDA research at

November 27, 2013

Related NIDA Notes Article

Dr. David Thomas


Listen Now:

Length: 04:06 minutes | Download the MP3 (2.81 MB)



I’m Dave Thomas.

I work for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and I work in their Pain Research and Analgesia Development Program.

Pain is a very basic sensation—animals have had it since the beginning.

And it’s basically to help protect an animal from doing harm to itself, touches something bad, something dangerous, they pull away.

It teaches them not to do things again that could damage their body.

So it’s very protective, but pain does become chronic and does become a disease, and that’s when we need to fight it.

There are roughly 100 million people in the United States suffering from chronic pain.

They’re our—They’re our grandmothers, our children, our family, our friends.

Everywhere you go, there are people in pain, it’s part of everybody’s life.

And we’re trying to make it less of something that’s disabling and more of something that is treatable.

The Pain Consortium was established in 1996, Congress established it, and it was because of the understanding that there’s not a “pain institute” at the NIH.

And in lieu of making a “pain institute,” the Pain Consortium was formed to help us interact across the various Institutes that do pain research, let us work in a more coordinated fashion.

And it’s really helped.

Since that time, there’s been a lot of synergy between the various Institutes, we’ve started a lot of new projects together.

And we’re getting a lot of buy-in from across the United States—the various pain communities look to us for guidance, for leadership.

The Pain Consortium’s up to a lot of very good things right now.

We’re doing a lot of wonderful projects that can improve pain treatment in America.

One in particular that I’m running are the Centers of Excellence in Pain Education to increase pain education in the primary education of future health care providers.

There’s actually a huge controversy as to whether opiates are the best treatment for pain.

The problem is, we haven’t done a real good systematic evaluation of what data’s out there, and have people look at it unbiasedly and give us some answers about that.

And that’s what the new program that we’re putting forward is going to do, it’s going to look at the entire literature of opioids for pain and then critically evaluate it by an unbiased group of people, or as unbiased as you can possibly get.

We hope that this program will result in some very clear answers about where opiates work, where they don’t, and this can guide treatment.

I’d like to tell people in chronic pain, we know you’re out there, and we’re trying to come up with better treatments, we’re trying to come up with better strategies for educating people.

We get approached by pain advocacy group people saying “Do more, do more,” and I’m on the same page as them—we’re trying to do more.

I’d recommend the Web site for more information,

It has a lot of information for health care providers, for researchers, for the public, people in pain.

It’s a really good place to start to get some information.