Vivitrol offers hope in opioid addiction

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Sadie Douglas wants to see her kids. This time around she's been a prisoner at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center for two years. She's been in and out of the system for years, this time she's back serving time on theft, drug and escape charges.

She says all her problems started when she started using opioids. Pills at first, then she started shooting up heroin because it was cheaper.

"I've lost my husband, my family, my kids," Douglas said. "I mean, all that wasn't enough to make me stop."

Now she's one of about a handful of prisoners at the women's prison who are getting shots of Vivitrol a few days before they are released.

Vivitrol blocks the brain's opioid receptors, preventing the user from getting high or overdosing on any opioid drug.

"I would love to see my kids," Douglas said, "that's what I want more than anything, you know, love them so much but I don't know if that's going to happen its been a while and it was really hard on them when I lost them so for now my plan is just to stay sober and I'm going to go into treatment."

Several states in the U.S. use this as part of their work release program, with the prisoner coming back once a month for a shot as well as ensuring they join drug treatment programs.

"It's not the cure to the problem but it is one component that is going to be incredibly beneficial to the offenders who participate in it," Autumn Vea a criminal justice planner for the Department of Corrections said.

The company that makes the shot has donated several injections. After those run out Vea said the costs for the $1,200 shot can be paid for through Medicaid or other insurance.

Arielle Holmes, a 15-year heroin addict, got her shot a few days ago and will be released this weekend.

She says the last time she got out of jail she relapsed after she walked out of prison.

"I want to change my life," Holmes said. "I want to start over, that's the whole point of doing this because I don't want to come back to jail. I'm tired of being here. All my friends are dying either from a gun fight or form opioids. I don't want to die. I know if I don't change, I know that's what's gong to happen. I'm either going to live here (at Hiland) or I'm going to die."

The program is voluntary. A user can't be pregnant, have hepatitis C or have liver problems.

It will eventually become available at prisons across the state. Prisoners must volunteer or their friends or families can email the state to see if they can help a prisoner: doc.substanceabuse@alaska.gov



 
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