Talks have begun to introduce Vivitrol, a breakthrough medication to help treat opiate and alcohol addiction, into the county’s jails.
No longer a problem that can be overlooked and ignored, opiate addiction is an epidemic that is overwhelming the state of Ohio and creating a skyrocketing death toll due to prescription drug and heroin overdoses. As more and more people become addicted every day, it is becoming clear that something new and different needs to be done in order to tackle the problem. Here in Ottawa County, where the majority of criminal defendants test positive for some illegal substance when they are arraigned, this issue is particularly pressing and is having devastating effects on the community.
Ottawa County Common Pleas Judge Bruce Winters is frustrated by this devastation and looking for a solution. A new non-narcotic drug, Vivitrol, may be an answer to addiction that can benefit the county. Vivitrol is a monthly injection that blocks opiate receptors in the brain and prevents a person from getting high. Unlike other addiction medications on the market, such as Suboxone, it is not a substitute for an opiate, it is non-addictive, and does not create any sort of physiological or psychological dependence. It merely prevents a person from feeling the euphoria that is associated with opiate and alcohol use, making using these drugs pointless.
Vivitrol is approved to prevent opiate relapse and treat alcohol dependence and with the extremely high rate of relapse among opiate addicts, it better equips people to stay sober and complete intensive alcohol and drug treatment recovery programs. It is a tool that gives addicts a chance at long-term success and sobriety. According to a clinical study, people who take Vivitrol were more likely to refrain from drugs, stayed in treatment longer, and reported fewer cravings to use drugs than those who received a placebo. The promising effects of this medication are being noticed all over the state as multiple programs are starting to incorporate the drug. In Hocking County, a judge has created a successful Drug Court that mandates Vivitrol be administered to all participants.
While Vivitrol is certainly an advancement on current treatments, it is not a magic cure to addiction. In order to be effective, it must be paired with alcohol and drug treatment programs such as counseling. In addition, many recipients may need mental health treatment, as they have been using opiates and alcohol to medicate themselves for years, and underlying issues will surface. It also does not come without side effects, including site related complications and a very high price tag for each injection. Administering the shot can also be difficult, as recipients must be opioid-free for 7-14 days to avoid immediate and serious withdrawal symptoms.
Judge Winters is bringing county representatives together to meet later this month to develop a process to administer the drug to individuals being released from county jails and to brainstorm ways to fund this medication and create a sustainable Vivitrol Program.