‘Life gets better really fast’: Drug addict prisoners reveal how their lives have been turned around by a $1,000 monthly injection
‘Life gets better really fast’: Drug addict prisoners reveal how their lives have been turned around by a $1,000 monthly injection that removes their cravings
Single shot of Vivitrol costs around $1,000 (£800) and lasts four weeks
Concerns have been raised that the injection has not been properly tested
Prisoners praised the medication as way of fighting the opioid epidemic
By Jessica Duncan For Mailonline
Published: 07:31 EST, 14 November 2016
Drug addict prisoners claim their lives have been turned around by a high-priced monthly injection.
But sceptics question its effectiveness and say the manufacturer has aggressively marketed an unproven drug to corrections officials.
Prisons, including Sheridan Correctional Centre in Sheridan, Wyoming, are experimenting by giving inmates addicted to opioids a single shot of Vivitrol.
Christopher Wolf had already served prison time for nonviolent crimes when he was ordered into treatment for a heroin addiction by a judge who suggested 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.
‘I don’t have cravings,’ Mr Wolf said. ‘I see how much better life is. It gets better really fast.’
The drug 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, around £800, and because the drug has a limited track record, experts do not agree on how well it works.
Joshua Meador, 28, an inmate at Sheridan hopes to get into the Vivitrol program before his release in January. Before incarceration, he abused both older treatment drugs. When given take-home doses of methadone for the weekend, he would sell them for heroin.
He said: ‘When I’m on Vivitrol, I can’t get high.
‘The drug has no street value or abuse potential.’
Proponents say Vivitrol could save money compared with the cost of locking up a drug offender – about $25,000 (approx £20,000) a year for each inmate at the Sheridan Correctional Center, 70 miles southwest of Chicago.
Dr. Joshua Lee, of New York 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 some of us, it feels like the right thing to do,’ said Dr Lee, a leading researcher on the treatment.