UTHSC Researcher Wins Grant to Study Opioid Addiction



UTHSC Researcher Wins Grant to Study Opioid Addiction

Karen J. Derefinko, PhD

Karen J. Derefinko, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), received a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop psychological methods designed to help individuals with opioid use disorder through medication assisted treatment.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses. Although treatment for opioid addiction is available, more than half of patients struggle to adhere to buprenorphine-naloxone, a form of medication assisted treatment, particularly during the early stages.

Derefinko's research program, the Get Solid Initiative, includes a series of projects focused on the prevention of opioid exposure and misuse. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 10.3 million people in the United States misused prescription opioids, with the majority of them abusing doctor-prescribed doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone. Derefinko believes her work in educating the public about the risks of opioid exposure is critical because of how easy it is to develop an addiction to opioids.