How Safe Is America’s Hottest Heroin Addiction Treatment?

Claire* felt she had no choice. Pressured by her parents and counselors, the then college student signed a contract agreeing to take anti-opioid medication for six months—or face losing her home and contact with her family. She had struggled to kick heroin and prescription pain medication for years.

“I’ve had depression before,” Claire recalled of the side effects she experienced from the new drug. “But this was just ongoing, constant… It made me extremely depressed, disillusioned, and uninterested in things I used to love.

“I didn’t even eat—there was no enjoyment in it,” she added. “I didn’t talk to people; I didn’t enjoy company… I was a zombie: I got up, went to class, came home, and went to sleep.”

Or tried to—Claire lived in Chicago near a noisy L train, so she’s not sure whether her insomnia was related to the medication, Vivitrol.

Now 24, Claire said that before she took the stuff, playing music was her greatest joy. “Afterward, I just wasn’t interested, and it’s my favorite thing to do.”

More disturbingly, at least one friend who signed a similar contract with their parents fatally overdosed not long after the medication wore off, Claire said.


Watch this short look at how one person beat the deadly opioid fentanyl:


Vivitrol is the brand name for the long-acting form of the drug naltrexone. Delivered via monthly injection, it completely blocks the high from heroin and other opioids like OxyContin. Leaving aside its steep price—upward of $1,000 per dose—it sounds like the perfect weapon against addiction in a country where opioid deaths are spiraling out of control. In fact, Tom Price, President Donald Trump’s health secretary, hyped Vivitrol at the expense of more established treatments after visiting the drug manufacturer’s factory in Ohio this spring.

But Vivitrol has also been the subject of recent exposes by the New York Times, ProPublica, and NPR, each featuring different examples of hardball tactics employed by that manufacturer,…

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