Why promising opioid treatment is not widely used in Vermont

Published: Oct. 22, 2018 at 5:07 PM EDT
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We're taking a closer look at a fix for opioid dependence. One form of treatment, Vivitrol, showed promise. And it works. But it's not being used widely in Vermont. Our Cat Viglienzoni found out why.

When we first told you about Vivitrol a few years ago, it was generating a lot of buzz. It was being used on dozens of people statewide in Vermont-- including hundreds in the state's prisons-- as part of an effort to treat opioid addiction.

The once-a-month shot blocks the receptors that make you feel good and cause cravings so you won't get high. Doctors and state officials described it as having promise. That's because it may have a better success rate with relapse as long as patients also get counseling. The American Addiction Centers says Vivitrol patients who used the treatment drug and rehabilitation were 17 times less likely to relapse.

But despite the initial hype, it is not widely used in Vermont now. The state's drug prevention policy coordinator tells WCAX News six people are using it now at correctional facilities. As of June, only two were using it through the state's hub treatment network.

When asked why so few people are choosing that option over others like buprenorphine or methadone, Jolinda LaClair, the Vermont director of Drug Prevention Policy, said treatment patients don't prefer it because it is opioid-free.

"Many people are not ready to lose the aspect of methadone or suboxone which still makes you feel better than you did before," LaClair explained. "So it's a choice that not many people are making."

Vivitrol also requires a person to detox and have no opioids left in their body before starting, which could be another reason people seeking treatment choose another option.

It's also pricey, with a shot costing as much as $1,000.