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In October 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency. A strategy was developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services that includes (1) better addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services, (2) better data on the epidemic, (3) better pain management, (4) better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs, and (5) better research on pain and addiction. Researchers at the University of Virginia are addressing these areas of focus across disciplines through innovative research, including novel transcranial ultrasound techniques, non-pharmacological and behavioral techniques to reduce chronic pain, and implementing remote mental health and addiction treatment systems.

UVA Addiction Research in the News


Nassima Talk PhotoAit-Daoud Tiouririne Talks Opioid Epidemic in Washington, D.C.: Nassima Ait-Daoud Tiouririne, MD, Professor of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences, joined members of Congress and state and federal public health officials for a morning of discussing the nation’s opioid epidemic. The event in Washington, D.C., was put together and moderated by The Hill, a political newspaper and website, with Ait-Daoud Tiouririne on a panel addressing technology’s role in tackling the opioid epidemic.

opoid graphicTackling the Opioid Epidemic: Across the University of Virginia, a broad community of researchers and clinicians is dedicating expertise and resources to address the opioid epidemic problem from an array of disciplines.

path graphicResearchers Developing Drug Delivery Patches to Manage Pain Without Addiction Risk: Three University of Virginia researchers are working toward an innovative solution for treating lower back pain after surgery and for chronic back pain. They are developing drug delivery patches that would be worn on the skin, like a bandage, to deliver non-addictive pain medicine directly to the site of pain, rather than systemically via pills or injections. The work builds on UVA’s expertise in orthopedics and pain management – and the engineering of very thin and flexible sensors and circuits.

About our Addiction Research Team

nassima photoNassima Ait-Daoud Tiouririne, MD is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences. She attended the University of Medicine of Algiers, Algeria and completed her residency at University of Virginia School of Medicine. Dr. Ait-Daoud Tiourirne’s research interests include the development of medications for the treatment of different types of addiction and understanding the biological and psychosocial underpinning of those addictions.


Wynn LegonWynn Legon, PhD joined the UVA Department of Neurological Surgery as an Assistant Professor in September 2017. The NeuroModulation Lab researches non-invasive neuromodulation techniques in humans and animal preparations including transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Dr. Legon's research demonstrates that tFUS can be targeted to spatially discrete regions of the brain.

Chang-Chia LuChang-Chia Liu, PhD is an Assistant Professor with the Department of Neurological Surgery. Dr. Liu’s research at UVA is focusing on mapping the neural activities within the pain-related brain networks in both human and animal models.

Wendy Lynch photoWendy Lynch, PhD is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences. Her laboratory uses behavioral, pharmacological, and molecular techniques to delineate the neurobiological basis of addiction. Her lab's work has shown that females are more vulnerable than males to the reinforcing effects of drugs during the different phases of the addiction process including acquisition, maintenance, escalation, and relapse. They are examining a number of biological factors that may underlie these sex differences including hormones, age, dopaminergic signaling, as well as interactions between these factors. She is also interested in pharmacotherapies for treating addiction. The use of animal models is critical to determining the process by which potential medications for treating drug addiction exert their behavioral-pharmacological effects. Such information will help guide the development and use of medications for drug addiction treatment in humans.

Jill Venton PhotoJill Venton, PhD is an Associate Professor of Chemistry, is interested in the development and characterization of analytical techniques to measure neurochemical changes. Her lab aims to study the real-time release of many different neurotransmitters simultaneously to better understand the normal and diseased functioning of the brain.