Xin Li

IU researcher looking at ways vitamin D may help with opioid use treatment

Vitamin D, or the "sunshine vitamin," has long been known as an important vitamin for health and strong bones. But recent studies have highlighted vitamin D's roles in pain management and neurodevelopment. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to increased pain, negative emotions and addiction, all of which are leading causes for opioid misuse.

Xin Li, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, is looking at how screening vitamin D levels in patients, and recommending vitamin D supplementation, both of which are potentially safe and cost-effective, could help reduce the likelihood of an opioid overdose.

Through her research, Li is studying the association between pre-prescription serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and opioid use by utilizing individual-level, electronic medical record data collected in standard clinical settings from IU Healthcare systems and Vanderbilt University Hospitals. The project is part of IU's Responding to the Addictions Crisis Grand Challenge.

Her team is also conducting a pilot study by offering vitamin D supplementation, in addition to routine treatment, among patients who are taking medication treatments for opioid addiction. The team will study whether direct vitamin D supplementation could improve addiction treatment effectiveness (better quality of life and mental health condition, lower pain score, etc.) and reduce overall medication doses.

By combining real-world data and a well-designed intervention study, Li is hoping to then implement a larger, randomized clinical trial that may lead to the development of new treatment guidelines.