9 investigates: Medication many call 'cure' for opioid addiction

Video: 9 Investigates: Call to expand use of Vivitrol to 'cure' opioid addiction

KISSIMMEE, Fl. — 9 Investigates looked into the growing call to expand the use of what many describe as a so-called ‘cure’ for opioid addiction.

We’ve told you about the expensive injectable medication, Vivitrol.  The medication can cost up to $1800 a dose, and doctors say it blocks receptors in your brain that cause cravings for opioids.

Investigative Reporter Karla Ray spoke to a woman who says the injections have saved her life, as policy-makers push to make it more accessible during Florida’s epidemic.

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“It consumed me, it was an obsession.  From the moment I woke up, until I went to bed,” recovering addict Jessica Finn said.  Finn described spending almost her entire adult life being under the influence and addicted.

A drug court violation forced Finn into Park Place Behavioral Health in Kissimmee for treatment.  It’s there where she heard of a medication that could possibly help her quit opioids for good.

“I didn't think I could ever be sober, I didn't think that was possible,” Finn said.

The manufacturer for Vivitrol notes on its website that the medication ‘blocks opioid receptors in the brain for one month at a time,’ to stop cravings for heroin and pills.  Finn received the $1800 monthly shots for a year.

“This is the closest thing to what many people would call a cure,” Park Place substance abuse programs Clinical Director, Michael Harris, said.

Harris says about 60 patients a month receive Vivitrol injections at Park Place, and there’s a wait list just as long.  Everyone who receives the injection through Park Place gets the medication for free, thanks to state and federal funding.

“They can take it away at any time.  It’s a large concern of mine,” Harris said about the funding.

The Office of the State Court Administrator has been funding $1 million in annual Vivitrol treatments since 2014, but lawmakers gave that program, and a separate one run by the Department of Children and Families, a boost in 2017 by allocating an additional $10 million in total recurring funds. As of this time last year, more than 3000 people statewide had received a total of more than 10,000 free Vivitrol injections, according to the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association.

Though Finn no longer needs a monthly shot, she celebrates her sobriety by helping others through recovery.

“That's what makes me high today, to help other people.  And I never thought I'd feel that way, but it's an amazing life, and I've gotten a second chance,” Finn said.

Vivitrol is just one of three medication-assisted treatments given state and federal funding to attack the opioid crisis.  The others, Suboxone and Methodone, still provide a low-dose high, which is why the focus has shifted to Vivitrol for many state-funded agencies.

You can view the Vivitrol Fact Sheet below.