Florida receives grant to develop alternatives to opioids

The University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville has received a $1.46 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to research and implement alternatives to opioids.

The team leading the research hopes that it would allow for patients and doctors to choose an appropriate pain treatment solution from a “menu” of available options. Options will include, aromatherapy, lidocaine patches, menthol gel and more.

Funding for the program comes from the SAMHSA Emergency Department Alternatives to Opioids Demonstration Program, which hopes to develop and implement opioid alternatives in emergency care settings.


Get the latest state-specific policy intelligence for the health care sector delivered to your inbox.


Finding alternatives for opioid drugs has become a priority since the opioid epidemic began to sweep through many rural areas throughout the country. Former President Donald Trump officially declared the epidemic a national emergency in 2017.

Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared the epidemic a statewide emergency as well in 2017. Part of his emergency declaration included provisions that supplied first responders with a drug called Naloxone to use on patients going through an overdose. Naloxone, which is often known as its commercial name, Narcan, can combat the effects of opioids in patients in the case of an overdose.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 66,395 Americans died from an overdose in 2018. Nearly 4,700 of those deaths were in Florida. A large portion of overdose deaths in the United States are from opioids.

The CDC attributes the epidemic to the increased number of prescriptions given for opioid pain killers. The CDC says the first wave began in 1990, with a second beginning in 2010. The third wave, which began in 2013, is the current one that has been declared emergency. Many of the deaths in the third wave can be attributed to synthetic opioids and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed against prescription drug manufacturers for allegedly hiding some of the negative effects of opioid drugs and for aggressively marketing drugs like OxyContin.

Phyllis Hendry, a University of Florida Research Foundation Professor, told Florida health that the program they are developing can better patient outcomes. She believes that they could even potentially serve as a model for emergency rooms around the country.