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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Naltrexone Reduces Relapse Rates

One of the major problems with the “war on drugs” is the fact that incarceration is not substance use disorder treatment. Locking someone up for an extended period of time without addressing the addiction will almost certainly result in recidivism. A new study has found that giving the drug naltrexone (XR-NTX) to inmates incarcerated for opioid related offenses, resulted in a much lower rate of heroin relapse upon release, Forbes reports.

The study was conducted by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and involved 33 men who had been incarcerated by the New York City Department of Corrections. The researchers found that of those inmates given XR-NTX, only 38 percent relapsed after their release, compared to 88 percent among those not provided the medication.

“There has been a lot of interest in Vivitrol as post-incarceration relapse prevention, but not much actual data,” said lead investigator and associate professor of Population Health and Department of Medicine at NYU Langone, Joshua Lee, in a news release. “This randomized trial was designed to examine the impact of the medication on relapse to heroin in the first few weeks after release from jail, and it showed substantial benefits.”

Naltrexone comes in a pill form and an injection form sold under the brand name Vivitrol, according to the article. The drug blocks the effects of opioids on the brain, and prevents relapse by reducing:
  • Euphoria
  • Pain Relief
  • Sedation
  • Physical Dependence
  • Cravings
Lee, points out that “more research is needed to characterize the optimal time in treatment and rates of important post-treatment outcomes such as relapse once the medication is discontinued.”

“XR-NTX is still relatively new in the opioid treatment role and not yet widely used in most public sector community treatment programs,” Lee said. “Generic barriers to CJS[criminal justice system] expansion would include limited medical, psychiatric and addiction treatment services during incarceration, poorly developed links from incarceration to community treatment providers, and a lack of awareness or an institutional mission regarding post-release opioid relapse rates.”

The findings were published in the journal Addiction.

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