Beth Darnall, PhD is Director of the Stanford Pain Relief Innovations Lab. She leads NIH and PCORI-funded clinical trials that broadly investigate behavioral medicine for acute and chronic pain, including a $9M multi-state trial on voluntary patient-centered prescription opioid reduction that is funded by PCORI. She serves as faculty mentor to junior investigators who are Stanford Pain NIDA T-32 post-doctoral research fellows, NIDA K23 awardees, and through the Stanford CTSA.
Her primary interests are developing and investigating novel pain treatments that are scalable, effective, and low burden. Healthcare clinicians around the world have been trained to deliver her single-session skills-based pain class, "Empowered Relief." "Empowered Relief" is currently available in two languages and in healthcare systems throughout the U.S., and in Australia, U.K., Denmark and Canada. Digital analgesic innovations include on-demand, skills-based, self-regulatory treatment for perioperative patients (“My Surgical Success”), and virtual reality for acute and chronic pain (she is chief science advisor for appliedVR). The broad goal of this collective line of research is to dismantle barriers to effective behavioral medicine for pain and well-being.
She leads the PCORI-funded EMPOWER study, a 4-state pragmatic randomized controlled clinical trial that is investigating how to best help physicians and patients successfully and voluntarily reduce long term opioid use and chronic pain using patient-centered methods. EMPOWER is a 3-arm RCT comparative effectiveness trial of two evidence-based behavioral treatments, cognitive behavioral therapy for pain and chronic pain self-management, applied within the context of patient-centered opioid tapering (N=1365). This research builds on the team's first report on "Patient-Centered Prescription Opioid Tapering in Community Outpatients with Chronic Pain" (Darnall et al, JAMA Int Med, 2018).
Darnall twice briefed the U.S. Congress on the opioid and pain crises, and provided invited testimony to the FDA on iatrogenic harms associated with opioid tapering. In 2020 she joined the NIH Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee as a scientific member. Her work has been featured in outlets such as Scientific American, NPR Radio, BBC Radio, and Nature. In 2018 she spoke on the psychology of pain relief at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
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