In the movie 28 Days with Sandra Bullock, we meet a young protagonist who is sent to a rehabilitation facility because she crashed her car into a house after ruining her sister’s wedding. During her stint in rehab, she decides that it would be a good idea to jump out of a window to retrieve her Vicodin that she threw away while proving to herself and her drug counselor that she no longer needed it to be “ok”. After she falls out of the window, breaks her leg, and gets threatened with jail time by her supervisor, reality begins to hit in. She pleads with the counselor to help spare her from prison time. “And I feel that I think I know-that if I go to jail, like this, I’ll die. And I don’t want to die.”
Addicts typically fear going to jail because of the horrible withdrawal symptoms and lack of treatment available for drug addiction during their stay. In many cases, there is no medical intervention available in jail for opiate related withdrawals since the withdrawals are not life threatening. Still, it can make for a very uncomfortable experience, coupled with the trauma and stress of being in that type of environment. For most addicts, jail doesn’t cure their addiction. After they are released, many go back to using.
However, this may be changing. According to an article in Marketplace, there is a new method of treating addiction in jail that one nurse in particular is proud to be a part of. Heidi Karash was a nurse for almost 15 years. She often treated patients in hospitals with the very opiates that they came in overdosing on. The experience left her heartbroken and determined to help addicts break the cycle of addiction. She became the head of nursing at the Correctional Facility in Erie, PA over 2 years ago. She reiterates, “Here I can be part of the solution.”
The solution involves a new type of drug called Vivitrol, which is given to addicts during their jail stay. The drug acts like an opiod blocker, or vaccine, that creates, “a force field around your brain that likes heroin,” according to addiction specialist Josh Lee at New York University. In other words, it prevents the mind and body from feeling high, regardless of how many pills or injections the addict uses after they are given the drug. In a sense, it is similar to the drug Naltrexone, but is longer lasting and more potent.
Sounds like a wonder drug, doesn’t it? It could be, but unfortunately, there are some barriers that are preventing it from being completely successful. Vivitrol is highly expensive and insurance doesn’t always cover it for many patients. Prisons offer the drug to inmates upon release for free, but then maintenance is up to them. Also, the drug comes in both a pill and shot form. Insurance companies usually prefer to pay for the drug in pill form, which can make a huge difference for the addict. The shot lasts much longer and doesn’t need to be injected everyday. A pill must be taken. If the pill is unavailable or too expensive to the addict, it’s much easier for the addict to retreat back to their old ways.
For example, a former heroin addict and resident of Erie had been clean for sometime. Her boyfriend Paul“ got clean with the help of Vivitrol, got a job, and got off Medicaid. His new insurance, however, didn’t cover the shot, just the daily pills. “So he did ok at first with it, but then he just didn’t want to take the pill, so, yea. Within a few months he was dead.”
Paul’s story is reminiscent of those who use gastric bypass surgery to cure obesity, or Antabuse to cure alcoholism. Eventually, if the addict wants to use-whether their drug of choice be heroin, food, or alcohol, they will find a way. The onus of sobriety remains on the addict, and no pill or quick fix will cure the spiritual malady that is addiction. However, with consistent research into new drugs like Vivitrol, Naltrexone, and others, there is hope for those addicts who truly want to stay sober and live better lives. Jail can perhaps become a place that helps fight addiction, not just a place that punishes those who suffer from it.
Do you suffer from an addiction to drugs and alcohol? Are you in need of a medical detox or facility that offers a variety of treatment methods? If so, contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health. Call 949-558-4723 today and start your roadmap towards recovery.