Addiction research, Explainer

Introducing… the Addiction Mission

Introducing… the Addiction Mission
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The health and wider societal costs to society in England of illegal drug use is approximately £20 billion per year, with the harms from alcohol use estimated to cost another £25 billion. These addictions are responsible for huge societal damage, lead to a range of further physical and mental health conditions and to substantial loss of life. Since 2012, the number of drug-related deaths has increased by 80%, and there are now approximately 4500 UK deaths annually due to drug misuse. In addition there are over 9600 annual UK deaths from alcohol, a figure which has been rising since 2019. Over 300,000 people are addicted to heroin and crack cocaine alone in England with 600,000 dependent on alcohol and the capacity of the treatment system is currently insufficient to meet the need for support. 

The Addiction Mission 

The Addiction Mission, announced as part of the UK’s Drug Strategy: From Harm to Hope, and delivered as one of the Office for Life Sciences Healthcare Missions, is aiming to help reduce this cost by  enhancing the UK-wide research environment and incentivising the development of innovative and effective new treatments, technologies and approaches to support recovery, and reduce the harm and deaths addiction can cause. 

In November 2022 £30.5 million of Government funding was announced for delivery of the Addiction Mission. 

The Addiction Mission is delivering on two key areas: 

  • Funding innovation competitions to attract industry and innovators to the UK and catalyse the development and deployment of new and effective interventions that help to treat drug addiction, aid in recovery, or prevent drug misuse related harm and deaths. 
  • Transforming the ecosystem for drug and alcohol addiction research in the UK: better linking multidisciplinary researchers and treatment delivery partners with industry and innovators, enhancing research capacity and the ability to deliver novel patient research, and accelerating the development, testing and use of innovations targeting addiction. 

To date the mission has: 

  • Launched the £5m Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge in partnership with the Scottish Government to catalyse the development of innovations to improve detection of, response to, and intervention in potentially fatal drug overdoses, to prevent deaths. This is a 2-phase competition which invited applicants to apply for funding for either feasibility, or demonstration stage development projects for technologies to improve detection of, response to, or intervention in potentially fatal drug overdoses. Twelve UK projects have been awarded an initial £1.5 million in funding.
  • Launched the £10 million Addiction Mission: Innovation for Treatment and Recovery i4i awards (AMI), delivered with the National Institute for Health and Care Research, to support the creation of innovative medicines and technologies to help treat people with opioid or cocaine addictions and aid in their recovery. 
  • Appointed Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes as the Addiction Mission Chair. 

Hear more from Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes in her MHR Incubator blog. Watch this space for more opportunities from the Addiction Mission.

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