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UH Mānoa Expert Calls for Better Opioid Addiction Treatment

July 1, 2018, 10:00 AM HST
* Updated July 1, 9:22 AM
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Claudio Nigg. Courtesy photo.

Opioid addiction has grown to epidemic proportions in the U.S. and a growing number of policy makers are calling attention to the need for more effective treatment programs.

Claudio Nigg, an expert on behavioral health science and a professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, is the co-author of a new policy recommendation advocating for greater funding for addiction treatment programs through Medicaid.

“To fight the opioid addiction epidemic that is ravaging the U.S. today, policymakers need to increase Medicaid funding for addiction treatment and declare the opioid epidemic to be a national emergency, and not just a public health emergency,” Nigg said.

According to a statement from the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s website on June 27, 2018, people commonly forego addiction treatment because private insurance programs won’t cover the cost.

Seventy-seven people died in Hawai‘i from opioid-related overdoses during 2016, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. On average, 78 people in the U.S. die each day from opioid-related overdoses and 3,900 people begin taking prescription opioids for non-medical reasons.

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Studies indicate that medication-assisted treatment programs are significantly more effective than medication alone. These type of programs include the use of prescription medication to decrease cravings and behavioral counseling or talk therapy.

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“Many insurance programs cover the cost of the medication, but not the counseling,” Nigg said.
“People need the counseling, not just the pills, to overcome their addiction.”

The policy recommendation was jointly issued on June 27 by the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the Society for Health Psychology. Nigg’s co-authored the policy with Jayson J. Spas of Rhode Island College, Joanna Buscemi of DePaul University, Ravi Prasad of Stanford University and Amy Janke of the University of the Sciences.

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