To Combat Heroin Epidemic, Judges Use Other Needles
Use of Vivitrol is on the rise
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2014 8:32 AM CDT
Judge Robert Peeler, shown on April 15, 2014, in Lebanon, Ohio, is among a growing number of judges and corrections officials across the country fighting heroin needles with treatment needles.   (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

(Newser) – With heroin use on the rise, more judges and corrections officials are turning to another injectable to fight the drug: They're offering Vivitrol, an opiate blocker, to heroin users they encounter. The drug uses naltrexone, which is also used to combat alcoholism, to block heroin's effects on the brain, and it lasts for a month—unlike methadone treatment, which requires clinic visits and daily doses. That makes Vivitrol particularly effective for former users who receive it upon leaving jail. Without it, these now-detoxed users don't always realize they can no longer tolerate the heroin dose they used to take; if they're tempted to use again at their former level, "the body simply can't handle it, and they die," an expert says. But a dose of Vivitrol buys them a month of reduced temptation, during which they can start counseling.

The treatment is not without its critics, the AP notes; some officials are unsure the $1,000-a-shot treatment is effective enough and say not enough research has been done, while some heroin users decline the treatment because it carries a risk of liver damage and depression. But with heroin overdose deaths having increased by 45% in the US between 2006 and 2010, others say Vivitrol is worth a shot, and Vivitrol programs are active in at least 21 states. (Another bonus: Unlike methadone, users are unlikely to become dependent on Vivitrol.) "I think I would have died," says one former heroin user who credits Vivitrol and God with saving her life. After a year of monthly injections, she's been drug-free since late 2012. (In New York City, more than half of the NYPD's force will soon be carrying a heroin overdose antidote.)

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Showing 3 of 16 comments
Mark Dreher
Jun 23, 2014 5:27 PM CDT
Anything, that can be done. To stop heroin. Is worth it. Opiates "Are the worst". All opiates. You develop A taste for that? Swing low Sweet chariot Comin for To carry you home..
Jun 23, 2014 4:27 PM CDT
"To Combat Heroin Epidemic" ------------------------------- The war on drugs started when I was a teenager and I was laughing at it back then and still do. Forget the bragging when you confiscate loads of drugs and money. Here's how you win the war on drugs; Take into custody anyone involved with drugs - selling or using. Promise them all charges will be dropped only if the info they give law enforcement is true. When info is confirmed, Kill them, make them disappear and proceed with the next scumbag criminal. Be fair, equal and treat all of these criminals alike whether they are lower echelon street criminals or the elitists with the money.
Jun 23, 2014 4:11 PM CDT
Disgusting. The government should uninvolve itself with drugs. Period. End of discussion.