Di­vi­sions over ad­dict prison in­jec­tions

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Sheri­dan, Illi­nois

US pris­ons are ex­per­i­ment­ing with a high-priced monthly in­jec­tion that could help ad­dicted in­mates stay off opi­oids af­ter they are re­leased, but skep­tics ques­tion its ef­fec­tive­ness and say the man­u­fac­turer has ag­gres­sively mar­keted an un­proven drug to cor­rec­tions of­fi­cials.

As­in­gle shot of Viv­it­rol, given in the but­tocks, lasts for four weeks and elim­i­nates the need for the daily doses com­mon with al­ter­na­tives such as methadone. But each shot costs as much as $1,000, and be­cause the drug has a lim­ited track record, ex­perts do not agree on how well it works.

Pro­po­nents say Viv­it­rol could save money com­pared with the cost of lock­ing up a drug of­fender — about $25,000 a year for each in­mate at the Sheri­dan Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter, 110 kilo­me­ters south­west of Chicago.

Dr Joshua Lee, ofNewYork Univer­sity’s med­i­cal school, said more ev­i­dence is needed to de­ter­mine whether the med­i­ca­tion can help sub­stan­tial num­bers of peo­ple and whether it’s worth pay­ing for, but the early re­sults are en­cour­ag­ing.

“It sounds good, and for someof us, it feels liketheright thing to do,” saidLee, a lead­ing re­searcher on the treat­ment.

Viv­it­rol is emerg­ing as the na­tion searches for ways to ease an opi­oid epi­demic that af­fects more than 2 mil­lion peo­ple and an es­ti­mated 15 per­cent of the US prison pop­u­la­tion. Many ex­perts view pris­ons — where ad­dic­tion’s hu­man toll can be seen most clearly— as a nat­u­ral place to dis­cover what works.

Christo­pher Wolf had al­ready served prison time for non­vi­o­lent crimes when he was or­dered into treat­ment for a heroin ad­dic­tion by a judge­who­sug­gested Viv­it­rol. Three months later, the 36-year-old from Cen­ter­ville, Ohio, is clean and work­ing full time as a cook.

He now sug­gests the med­i­ca­tion to other ad­dicts.

“Idon’thave crav­ings,” Wolf said. “I see how much bet­ter life is. It gets bet­ter re­ally fast.”

Viv­it­rol tar­gets re­cep­tors in the brain’s re­ward sys­tem, block­ing the high and ex­tin­guish­ing urges. In some pro­grams, pris­on­ers get an in­jec­tion be­fore re­lease, then fol­low-up shots from clin­ics.

Prison sys­tems in Illi­nois, Ver­mont, Wy­oming and Wis­con­sin are try­ing the drug on a small scale. Michi­gan is of­fer­ing Viv­it­rol to parolees who com­mit small crimes, if ad­dic­tion is the rea­son for their newof­fense.

The fed­eral Bureau of Pris­ons ran a field trial in Texas and plans to ex­pand the pro­gram to the North­east next year. The drug’s man­u­fac­turer hopes pris­ons will be the gate­way to a larger mar­ket.

the cost of each in­jec­tion of Viv­it­rol, which is be­ing tested on in­mates

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