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Study Investigates Naltrexone for Parolees With History Of Opiate Addiction


Researchers are studying whether the opioid antagonist naltrexone can help parolees recently released from prison who have a history of opiate addiction and relapse. Initial data indicates these parolees are less likely to be reincarcerated and to relapse.

Charles P. O’Brien, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, notes the initial results, from a pilot study, led to a five-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health being conducted at five sites. Early results from that study suggest parolees taking naltrexone are less likely to relapse and to die from a drug overdose.

“That result is important because there is a very high rate of overdose in former prisoners; they often don’t realize that they have lost their tolerance for opiates,” Dr. O’Brien says in an interview with the Dana Foundation. “The same dose of heroin or oxycodone that used to make them feel good may now kill them. This is a real risk.”

He notes helping prisoners to avoid relapse can save money, since prison costs between $40,000 and $60,000 annually, per bed. “My hope is that the data will convince judges, prosecutors, and parole officers that naltrexone will help addicts stay off drugs, help prisons empty out a bit, and save a lot of money,” he says.

3 Responses to this article

  1. sugerdog / October 3, 2011 at 6:25 am

    I think that the addicts that are being arrested and are put in a cell just after a few hours their starting their withdrawls from opiods and after a long time in and how much their addicted to is a big concern to the person thats arrested .The body goes in to shock from not having the opiods or even if the person is on treatment drugs like methadone,subosten and their not to have anything while incarserated. This is when they need to be checked out and looked at and to see how thier doing in their withdrawls for some situations are very dangerous in the person going into shock and having a stroke or heart attack or death. Most intake centers do not do anything to help the person thats held in a cell for long periods and could care less about their health and a lot of people that are arrested are on some kind of treatment drugs or pain medication and their bodies go in to a state of shock from not having their prescibed medication if its a narcotic or a treatment drug like methadone,subotson and this could have a turn for the worse for the person that held in carseration. THATS WHEN THEY SHOULD BE GAVE THE NALTREXONE , IT WOULD PROBABALLY SAVE THEIR LIFE. AND A LOT OF GREIF FOR EVERYBODY INVOLVED.

  2. Sandra / September 16, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    It’s a crime, and a waste of money, as Dr. O’Brien says, that prisoners receive so little drug treatment of any kind while in prison. Most of the explosion of the prison population is of non-violent offenders, for drug possession for personal use or low-level sales, or theft without violence, often for money to buy drugs. Any prisoner with an history of addiction would benefit from treatment, Dr. O’Brien’s method is a lifesaver.

  3. Avatar of Jaynip
    Jaynip / October 4, 2011 at 3:48 am

    As a reply to sugardog, withdrawal from opiate drugs is rarely life threatening. The body does not go into shock, it goes into acute withdrawal. If you have not experienced this yourself, imagine being sick with the worst flu you’ve ever had, throw in diarrhea, restlessness, depression, multiply by 100 or so, and you have the general idea. Naltrexone can be used as a life saving drug when someone is brought into an emergency room suffering from an overdose. The naltrexone displaces the opiates from the receptors in the brain and causes instant withdrawal. So if I read your post correctly, the last thing we want to do is give the addicts naltrexone as soon as they walk in the door, as that would cause more of a “shock” to the system than regular withdrawal would. There are other therapies that can be used to help a patient in withdrawal, like a clonidine taper, for example, the problem is identifying patients and prescribing adequate care.

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