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Beth Darnall receives funding to test pain management strategies

The Stanford pain psychologist will evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral training to help people with chronic pain reduce their use of opioids.

Beth Darnall

Beth Darnall, PhD, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, has received an $8.8 million research award to study how to best help patients with chronic pain reduce opioids.

The study will seek to determine whether cognitive behavioral therapy or pain self-management classes are effective at alleviating pain and reducing opioid use among people with chronic pain.

Darnall, a pain psychologist and researcher, said people with chronic pain are often fearful about reducing opioid use.

“Alternatives are needed to reduce opioid risks and to provide pain relief to patients,” she said, adding that her study aims to reduce opioid use compassionately while testing the effectiveness of behavioral treatment for pain. “We seek to provide physicians and patients with the evidence and tools they need to treat chronic pain with less opioids.”

Study participants will begin a patient-centered program to taper their opioid use and will also be assigned to one of three groups: one will receive cognitive behavioral therapy, another will learn pain self-management techniques and the third will receive no behavioral treatment.

Darnall’s proposal was among 11 projects that received funding Sept. 12 from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. In all, the institute gave $97.9 million for studies comparing different approaches to improving care for a range of health conditions.

The institute is an independent, nonprofit organization that funds research aimed at providing patients and their caregivers with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions.

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