The opioid epidemic is a national crisis. Every day, an estimated 130 people die in the United States from an opiate related overdose. Many of these deaths can be attributed to an initial or current misuse of prescription opioids, often prescribed to treat acute and chronic pain. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the annual economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States alone is $78.5 billion, which includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. About 80 percent of people who use heroin have misused a prescription opiate first. These types of staggering statistics go on, but the point is that the opioid epidemic is a real problem requiring realistic, effective, and timely solutions.
A Multi-faceted Approach
Many different areas need improvement when considering potential solutions to the opioid crisis, and it will likely be advancement in all of them that results in a real progress. Those who already suffer from an opioid misuse disorder need improved access to evidence-based treatment. It is imperative to advance research in overdose therapy, medication-assisted therapy, and opiate abuse risk reduction. Most relevant to the field of focused ultrasound is the establishment and promotion of alternatives to opiate-based medications for the treatment of pain. Another area that has the potential to use focused ultrasound is in the identification and development of new therapies to aid in abstinence from opiates.
On a brilliant fall day in 2015, I cringed as I watched my then 7-year-old horse limp towards my veterinarian.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"I can inject that joint, but we’ll have to watch it," he replied.
Foundation board member and bestselling author John Grisham has teamed up with Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), on an opinion piece discussing how technologies like focused ultrasound can help drive down healthcare spending. "This Technology is Going to Change Healthcare" appears in the current issue of It is Innovation (i3) magazine, CTA's flagship publication focusing on innovation in technology, policy, and business. The magazine is circulated to more than 2,000 CTA member companies and all members of Congress, reaching tens of thousands of people. Grisham and Shapiro first connected back in 2018 when the Foundation traveled to Las Vegas for CTA’s annual trade show, CES, to educate more than 180,000 consumers, media, and industry professionals about focused ultrasound and The Tumor.
One in five adults (47.6 million) in the United States, and one in six youths aged 6–17 years (7.7 million), suffer from some form of mental illness. The medical and financial costs to patients and society are significant and include lost productivity, increased financial and emotional responsibilities on family members, serious morbidities, and – perhaps of greatest concern – markedly reduced life expectancies (e.g., 20–25 fewer years in those with severe mental illness).
Although suicide rates are 10-fold higher than in the general population, the major cause of premature death in patients with severe mental illness is cardiovascular disease according to the World Health Organization. Patients with severe mental illness in general are much heavier, far less active, may smoke up to three times as many cigarettes, and are less likely to seek and utilize medical care.
Although still a busy consultant in the field, Lawrence A. Crum, PhD, recently retired as a Research Professor of Bioengineering and Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington (UW). He has also retired from his posts as Principal Physicist in UW's Applied Physics Laboratory and as Founder/Past Director of the Center for Industrial and Medical Ultrasound, a translational research enterprise that builds collaboration between industry, research, and academia for the development of technology.
To capture the history and work of this focused ultrasound visionary, the Foundation's Chief Scientific Officer, Jessica Foley, PhD, interviewed Dr. Crum. She first met him almost 20 years ago, when she arrived at the University of Washington to begin her PhD work. Although Shahram Vaezy, PhD, was her direct advisor, Dr. Crum encouraged her to pursue focused ultrasound research, served on her dissertation committee, and supported her work then – and throughout her career.