Some Jails and Prisons Provide Vivitrol for Departing Inmates to Reduce Opioid Use

About 100 jails and prisons nationwide are providing departing inmates with Vivitrol, a drug that treats opioid addiction, to reduce rates of addiction and reincarceration, The Boston Globe reports.

Vivitrol blocks receptors in the brain where opioids and alcohol attach, preventing the feelings of pleasure that these substances produce.

It is long-acting, which helps newly released inmates avoid going right back to opioid use during their first days of freedom. Vivitrol, unlike methadone and buprenorphine, does not produce a high, and cannot be diverted to street use, the article notes.

A person must abstain from opioid use for seven to 10 days before starting Vivitrol, which is not a problem for prisoners who had to detox behind bars.

Alkermes, the company that makes Vivitrol, is urging prisons to connect departing inmates with counseling and other behavioral interventions on the outside.

“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.”

All prisons and jails in Massachusetts get free samples from Alkermes of the first Vivitrol injection before release. Medicaid or other health insurance usually covers most or all of the $1,000 cost of the monthly shot outside prison.

Vivitrol was first approved to treat alcoholism in 2006. It won approval from the Food and Drug Administration for opioid addiction in 2010. An estimated 15,000 take Vivitrol nationwide, the article notes.

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