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Addiction Treatment Options, Drug Addiction, Substance Abuse  |  November 03, 2016

Late in October, U.S. health insurer Cigna, took steps to make it easier for doctors and patients to get access to a life saving drug used to treat opioid addiction.  The insurer also pledged to reduce opioid use among its customers significantly within three years.

 The drug - buprenorphine, is a medication that helps reduce cravings for opioid drugs – including heroin. Buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone,  partially activates the same receptors in the brain that heroin and other opioids do, thus helping block the very challenging withdrawal symptoms that make quitting these drugs so incredibly difficult for so many.  Opioids, as a class of drugs, are the most addictive on the planet.

Cigna announced that it was voluntarily ending what are called “prior authorization requirements” in its commercial plans for drugs used to treat opioid addiction.  Those are the plans provided to employers and individual consumers. “This will help make it easier for our customers to access coverage for the medications they need,” said a Cigna spokesman, adding that Cigna aims to reduce opioid use among its customers by 25% in three years.

Originally, Cigna and other insurers had insisted on “prior authorization requirements” out of fear that these drugs would end up on the black market – and subject to abuse.

Given that the problem of opioid addiction has become a public health crisis across the country as well as here in Connecticut – the federal government has been anxious to relax restrictions on buprenorphine in the hope of getting it into the hands of more physicians and helping stem the tide of the crisis.  Currently millions of people in the U.S. become addicted to these drugs annually – resulting is some 30,000 overdose deaths a year.

Will this action by Cigna help?

Without a doubt.

Is it the answer to the larger problem of opioid addiction?

No.

Only when physicians break their addiction to prescribing these drugs – and big pharmaceutical companies stop pushing them on physicians – will Connecticut and the rest of the nation see relief.

If you know someone struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol in Connecticut - the drug and alcohol rehab specialists at Aware Recovery Care can help immediately.  Using a treatment model inspired by researchers at Yale, Aware Recovery Care is helping addicts recover at rates 350% above the national average.  Learn more today at www.awarerecoverycare.com.