There's a new tool in the fight against opioid addiction. It's called Naltrexone, brand name Vivitrol and its an injection that essentially blocks the effects of opioids and therefore prevents an addict from getting high or overdosing for 30 days.
Most of the people that come to see me have at least five people they know that have died of overdose.
Dr. Steven Hefter said he gave six patients Vivitrol shots in just one day. He receives patients from local halfway houses and the Jefferson County Drug Court in Birmingham Alabama. "They say you can go over and get a shot now or you can be put in jail and detox there." He administers the shots because he said it saves lives and puts families back together.
Prison systems have been testing out the drug and administering it to newly freed inmates.
It gives them a month and hopefully more if they come back for more injections where they can start to build those sober networks they need and promote recovery in their environment.
Karen Cropsey with UAB's Department of Psychiatry said Vivitrol shots are especially beneficial for people leaving drug treatment centers. Ideally, a person should be clean for five to seven days before getting a shot.
Cropsey said "It will put someone in opioid withdrawal if they're actively using."
Because the shot prevents you from getting high, addicts learn it's a waste to even try.
"If you tried to shoot up heroin over it you wouldn't get any effect," said Cropsey.
Both Cropsey and Hefter said the biggest limitation of Vivitrol is the cost. Hefter said it's $1,185 per shot. He said there are programs that can help someone pay for it. But he and Cropsey would like to see the price come down and for it to be more accessible.