Sadly, this country has a long history of imprisoning people for their addictions; addicts are often given long sentences for the crime of being an addict. While a number of states have come a long way with regard to offering treatment over jail for people arrested on charges of possession, in many states addicts are not given the option and a forced to find recovery behind bars. Naturally, a large number of addicts behind bars fail to develop the skills necessary to stay clean upon their release, a deficiency that typical results in relapse and potential recidivism.
In recent years, studies have been conducted involving the drug Vivitrol ® (naltrexone) with prison inmates. The findings have shown that giving addicts Vivitrol may reduce the likelihood of relapse and reincarceration. Nationwide, about a 100 jails and prisons have begun providing inmates about to be released with Vivitrol, The Boston Globe reports. The drug does not produce a “high” like other addiction maintenance drugs, such as methadone and buprenorphine.
How Does Vivitrol Work?
Naltrexone works by blocking the receptors in that alcohol and opioids attach, inhibiting one’s ability to experience euphoria from use. If a person takes a drink of alcohol or swallows an oxycodone pill, they will not get high; in turn a user may be less likely to use again. Vivitrol is available in injection or pill form, the injection being long acting up to 30 days. One must abstain from opioid use for 10 days before Vivitrol can be administered, which “shouldn’t” be a problem in jail.
The company that makes Vivitrol, Alkermes, is giving free samples of the drug to all prisons and jails in Massachusetts, according to the article. But the drug alone is not enough; Alkermes is calling penal institutions to connect parolees with behavioral therapy resources upon release.
“Its reputation on the street is that it’s a silver bullet,” said Dr. Barbara Herbert, President of the Massachusetts chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. “But there is no way to heal from addiction without doing the psychological work of recovery.”
Vivitrol Is Not A Cure
The drug is effective, and a valuable tool in dissuading relapse, yet hard work is still required of the former prisoners if relapse is to be avoided. When it comes to addiction, there isn’t a pill someone can take to cure them of their disease. If relapse is to be avoided, addicts need to connect with addiction counselors and/or a 12 step program upon release. Behavioral modification programs, in conjunction with Vivitrol, gives former prisoners a fighting chance at finding recovery and avoiding a return to prison or jail.
If you are or a loved one struggles with drugs or alcohol, please contact Design for Change.