Drug Approved to Treat Painkiller Addictions

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    A monthly shot may help addicts recover from addictions to prescription painkillers.

    Vivitrol has been used to treat patients will alcohol dependence for four years. The Food and Drug Administration has now approved the drug to treat patients with addictions to prescription painkillers and other opiates.

    FDA Approves Drug for Opiate Addiction

    [DFW] FDA Approves Drug for Opiate Addiction
    A monthly shot may help addicts recover from addictions to prescription painkillers. (Published Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010)

    Dr. Harold Urschel of Urschel Recovery Science Institute in Dallas has treated hundreds of patients with Vivitrol.

    The drug works by blocking the effects of narcotics in the brain.

    "You don't get a high," Urschel said. "You don't get euphoria. Over time, it seems to decrease cravings, and it will prevent you from having a relapse. You may need may need to stay on Vivitrol the rest of your life. In most cases, you stay on it for about a year and half."

    But Urschel warned that the drug is not a quick fix and should be just one part of a comprehensive sobriety program.

    "You need to go to a 12-step program," he said. "A lot of times addicts have depression, anxiety, so the psychiatric piece need to be treated."

    Urschel recommends that addicts and their families go to family therapy.

    A back injury that triggered 34-year-old Tai Jones' 15-year addiction to narcotics.

    "I originally started taking your everyday hydrocodone, Vicodin," she said.

    Jones said her addiction spiraled out of control very quickly when she went from abusing prescription narcotics to ingesting heroin.

    "I would go through periods of sobriety -- 30 days, three months, six months," she said. "The end result would always be that I would be back out there again."

    At age 33, Jones hit rock-bottom and tried Vivitrol as a last resort.

    "I have managed to put together 14 months of sobriety," she said. "My life in the past 14 months has been absolutely remarkable."

    But researchers also say that many addicts prefer psychological counseling -- such as 12-step programs -- and choose not to treat their dependence with pharmacological treatments.