Naltrexone is Now Being Offered To Inmates In 30 States

By Victoria Kim 07/14/16

Prisons that use naltrexone in their withdrawal protocol are hoping to lower the rate of recidivism and end the cycle of addiction and crime. 

Naltrexone is Now Being Offered To Inmates In 30 States

More and more jails across the U.S. are using naltrexone to help inmates quit and stay off opiates. The monthly injection is now being offered to 144 inmates at Orange County Jail in Florida, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, and officials are hopeful that it will stop the cycle of addiction and crime that many inmates find themselves trapped in.

“Oftentimes, you just have to get people in the right place and at the right time to offer them a lifeline,” Cornita Riley, Orange County’s chief of corrections, told the Sentinel. “If we simply reduce the normal cycle of recidivism we see, we’ve made an impact.”

Vivitrol, also known as naltrexone, blocks the brain’s opiate receptors, stopping opiate triggers like alcohol, heroin and painkillers such as OxyContin. It diminishes cravings and blunts the euphoric effects of intoxication.

Before Orange County inmates can be treated with Vivitrol, they must go through the jail’s withdrawal protocol, Dr. Christopher Hunter, county director of health services, explained. They are monitored through detox and once finished, they are ready to start on Vivitrol. “If you try to shoot up, you won’t feel anything,” said Hunter. 

In addition to therapy that includes the Vivitrol injection, the program connects inmates to counseling and treatment as well. 

Orange County has been hit especially hard by the heroin epidemic within the state of Florida. Heroin-related deaths have risen six-fold—from 14 deaths in 2011 to 85 in 2015, the highest in the state—coinciding with a sharp rise in heroin-related arrests, from fewer than 100 in 2010 to more than 800 in 2015.

Currently only two Florida jails treat inmates with Vivitrol—Orange and Duval Counties. But across the country, many more correctional facilities are doing the same. A 2010 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University found that 65% of all U.S. inmates meet the criteria for substance abuse or addiction, yet just 11% receive any treatment while in jail or prison.

Jails like Orange County’s are hoping to interrupt the cycle of addiction and crime, reduce recidivism, and ultimately break even by keeping freed inmates from coming back. (One Vivitrol shot can cost around $1,000, though it’s offered at a discount from the drug company Alkermes, according to the Sentinel.)

The treatment has been shown to work at Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts, which has had a 9% recidivism rate among those who received Vivitrol since the jail started offering it to departing inmates almost four years ago.

According to Corrections One, Vivitrol is now used in over 100 programs across 30 states, including state prisons in Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Utah.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr