Prisons Turn To Vivitrol To Fight Opioid Epidemic

By Seth Ferranti 11/21/16

A handful of U.S. prisons have finally began to embrace medication-assisted treatments like Vivitrol. 

Prisons Turn To Vivitrol To Fight Opioid Epidemic in Prisons
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With at least 15% of the more than 2 million incarcerated Americans that are struggling with addictions, even prisons aren’t safe from the opioid epidemic currently plaguing our country.

With incarceration costs rising to around $30,000 a year per prisoner, society is looking to move away from the War on Drugs model and find more effective and cost-efficient ways to help addicts, instead of the current status quo of locking them up and throwing away the key.

U.S. prisons have started trials with Vivitrol, an expensive monthly injection that claims it can help returning citizens stay off drugs. A campaign has been launched by the manufacturer which targets prison systems that want to save money.

“You couldn’t design something better for the criminal justice system,” said David Farabee, a UCLA professor who leads a Vivitrol study in a New Mexico jail. “There’s been pushback with other medications, people saying, ‘We’re just changing one drug for another.’ That argument goes out the window when you’re talking about a blocker [like Vivitrol].”

The anti-addiction drug’s supporters say that substance users can be released instead of serving time, and save taxpayers a significant amount of money. Vivitrol injections cost $1,000 and last for a month. Advocates compare that $12,000 a year per inmate with national averages for incarceration costs per inmate. And although there have been skeptics, some former inmates claim that the injection works.

“I don’t have cravings,” said Christopher Wolf, a 36-year-old from Ohio who served time for non-violent crimes and was ordered into treatment by a judge who suggested Vivitrol. Three months later, Wolf is clean and working full time as a cook. “I see how much better life is. It gets better really fast.”

The drug targets brain receptors, blocking the high and decreasing cravings.

Prisons in Illinois, Michigan, Vermont, Wyoming, and Wisconsin have started trials with the drug and the federal Bureau of Prisons has implemented a trial at a prison in Texas with plans to expand the program nationwide.

“The disease of addiction is a cunning, baffling and powerful one,” said Dr. Joseph Garbely, who works with Pennsylvania-based Caron Treatment Centers. “You need all hands on deck.”

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.