How a new injectable medication is helping people with addiction

Injectable naltrexone, under the brand name Vivitrol, blocks opioid receptors in the brain so users don't feel high after taking opioids

vivitrol heroin treatment

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Addiction recovery organizations held a meeting Thursday evening to discuss a medication-assisted treatment option.

Injectable naltrexone, under the brand name Vivitrol, blocks opioid receptors in the brain. When a person struggling with addiction gets the shots, they no longer feel the euphoric effect of the drug, according to One Health Director of Behavioral Health Misty Long.

This medication was the main topic at the ACT (Addiction, Counseling & Treatment) Center For Recovery and One Health Ohio meeting.

The groups got the word out about this resource at the Youngstown Community Health Center, but there weren’t many ears to hear it with less than ten people in the audience.

Elizabeth Beckley, Ohio Change Addiction Now (CAN) vice president, says she knows why.

“We don’t have family members show up at events like this because they’re ashamed. They’re ashamed to say, ‘I have a family member who suffers from the disease of addiction.'”

Beckley is not ashamed, however. Her own daughter is in recovery from drug addiction.

“It’s not curable, but we can treat it. Somebody on Vivitrol, it can save their lives,” she said. “It’s scientifically proven to help with the disease of addiction, so we are on that path.”

A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that patients who received injectable naltrexone shots had lower rates of relapse.

“We’ve had a lot of success with using medication-assisted treatment in conjunction with the treatment we provide here,” Long said.

Jason Burns struggled with heroin addiction for almost seven years, but is now three years clean. He says that’s thanks to Vivitrol.

“I absolutely believed that this, for me, would work and it did.”

Still, some experts are preaching caution. A doctor at New York University says results have been positive, but they’re still looking for more studies to see the long-term impact on people in recovery.

One problem is that patients have to be clean from opioids for at least a week before they can start getting the shots.

“One Health can help them get into a detox center in 24 hours. Phenomenal. But then we have the question, ‘What about that 24 hours?'” Beckley said. “Somebody in addiction is going to use and that one-time use could cost them their life.”

That puts the responsibility of starting the tough road to getting clean in the user’s hands.

WKBN is launching a year-long public service campaign to raise awareness about the problem and help come up with solutions. It kicked off with a special town hall discussion, “27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis – National Problem, Local Solutions.”

See all of WKBN 27 First News’ stories on the epidemic in our “Heroin Crisis” section.

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