Can Vivitrol Help Prevent Relapse For Former Inmates?

Tulsa County has started a Vivitrol-based program, the first of its kind in Oklahoma, to prevent relapse among former inmates. The program will select and treat released Tulsa County inmates who are addicted to opioids. The treatment strives to reduce the chance that newly freed inmates will relapse into criminality because of their addiction. Inmates who are still in county jail may be considered for the treatment as well so long as they are not pregnant or sentenced to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Dr. William Cooper, CEO of Turnkey Health, medical partner of the jail, estimates that 10-15 inmates will be selected for treatment each month once the program launches.

The treatment is based on the opioid antagonist Vivitrol. Antagonist drugs act as opposites to their agonist counterparts. Heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl are all examples of opioid agonists, which illicit typical physiological responses associated with opioids. As an antagonist, Vivitrol actively removes and blocks any opioid molecules from the body’s receptors, primarily working in the brain. There are a few different kinds of opioid antagonist drugs, but Turnkey Health chose Vivitrol for its slow release properties. In contrast, Narcan, the drug used to reverse opioid overdoses, provides an immediate relief from opioids effects. The program designers preferred a slower release approach to prolong the effect.

Why Give The Inmates Vivitrol Treatment?


Counties may differ depending on location, but throughout the US, more and more criminals arrive in jails addicted or dependent on a substance. Jails now function as detox and treatment facilities because of the rate at which addicted individuals are being arrested. The opioid epidemic has damaged millions of lives at every societal level. Addiction can start with a prescription treating an injury, which may lead people to illicit opioids when their legal options dry up. Until the US as a whole can find a way to curtail opioid abuse on a large scale, this treatment may be the best option for minimizing return inmates in county jails.


Despite the $1,000 price tag on each injection, county officials intend for this measure to save them money in the long run. A decreased recidivism rate ultimately means that the jail needs to spend less because of a smaller population. When an inmate is released, but left untreated for their addiction, desperation to satiate their drug habits can often lead to illegal activity and a return to jail. This habit also places the addict in extreme danger upon release if they do not receive some sort of treatment.

Quality of Life

It may go without saying but helping someone beat their addiction improves their quality of life significantly. This treatment program also acts as an effort to prevent unnecessary death within the Tulsa County community. When the only treatment an inmate receives is detoxification, risks of overdose after release can reach as high as 40% depending on which area they live in and what drug they’re addicted to. Because of the time spent in jail and away from regular drug use, an inmate’s tolerance may reduce drastically and cause them to overdose upon using the drug like they did before incarceration.


Turnkey Health, along with state government affiliated health agencies, will fund the program. Several community sources within Tulsa County have also committed to helping the program with funding. Funding for the program may eventually be taken from the $842 million recently won in settlements with Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson.

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Michael Muldoon

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  • Michael Muldoon earned a B.A. in Media Studies from Penn State University, but instead of shifting into an academic career in social science, he has decided to put his skills to work in the pursuit of helping those struggling with addiction. He enjoys spending his free time at the climbing gym with friends.

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