OSU Center for Health Sciences announces initiative to combat opioids

Tulsa center to boost research, open addiction and pain clinics, improve training

The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences is undertaking additional research, education and treatment initiatives in an effort to combat opioid abuse and other forms of addiction, state and university officials said Friday.

“Too many Oklahoma lives have been cut short from opioid overdose,” Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of OSU-CHS, said during a news conference at the school’s west Tulsa campus. “Once-capable men and women find themselves unable to function at home and at work.”

Shrum and Dr. Jason Beaman, head of the OSU-CHS psychiatry and behavior sciences department, said the school will open an addiction clinic in association with 12 & 12, a Tulsa addiction treatment program, and a pain management clinic, probably at the OSU Medical Center downtown.

Officials said OSU-CHS will also put additional resources into researching addiction and addiction treatment, and in the training of treatment professionals.

The entire initiative is under the OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery banner.

Shrum noted the school recently initiated Project Echo to bring addiction information and treatment and pain management therapies to rural Oklahoma. OSU-CHS is holding addiction summits next week in Enid, Lawton and Durant.

“Our vision is to become a national leader in addiction and recovery research,” Shrum said.

Attorney General Mike Hunter and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White also attended the news conference.

White said opioids are particularly dangerous because of their addictiveness and their deadliness.

“What happens when you use an opioid is that it slows your respiration,” White said. “The way people are dying is that they take enough opioids that they stop breathing.”

Opioids are drugs that act on certain receptors so as to deaden pain. Opioids include old standbys such as morphine and heroin, and newer drugs such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

The proliferation of opioids for pain management is widely blamed for the rapid rise in addiction to and death from them.

Hunter has sued five opioid manufacturers on behalf of the state, claiming they misled physicians into believing the drugs are safer than they actually are. Hunter said Friday he hopes proceeds from the lawsuit will be put into a trust fund to treat addiction.

“Addiction is a disease, not a sin,” he said. “It needs to be treated.”

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