The Centers ramps up addiction fight

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By Nancy Kennedy

Recovery from opiate or alcohol addiction is a fight.

Even after the physical symptoms of withdrawal are over — and they are often brutal — a person is left dealing with the physiological changes in the brain.

That’s when the danger of relapse is at a high risk.

In May, Gov. Rick Scott officially declared the opioid epidemic in Florida a public health emergency, which authorizes him to release funds without the Legislature’s approval.

It also allowed the state to accept federal funds from the State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis Grant, allocating more than $17 million to local communities for treatment and services for those in recovery from opiate addiction.

This includes nearly $3.8 million toward the use of Vivitrol treatment.

Three months ago, The Centers began offering monthly Vivitrol injections to their clients in recovery.

“This is a big deal,” said Steve Blank, The Centers clinical director. “It will help people in Marion and Citrus counties who are struggling with opiate or alcohol addictions, to get them to the next point in their recovery so they can maintain a long-term recovery.”

The medication, he explained, is not a replacement drug like methadone or buprenorphine (Subutex) or buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), which are addictive and cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Rather, it’s a non-addictive antagonist — instead of mimicking the effects of opiate drugs like heroin or oxycodone, Vivitrol blocks opioid receptors in the brain.

If a person takes an opiate drug or drinks alcohol, they won’t get high.

Blank said it’s not a cure, but a tool and an adjunct to treatment, which includes counseling, both one-on-one and group counseling.

“It’s not something we can give to everybody,” Blank said. “But for those who meet the criteria, it’s been proven to be very effective.”

Plus, once a person stops taking Vivitrol, there are no withdrawal symptoms.

To qualify, a person must:

* Be 18 or older.

* Have a primary substance use diagnosis of opiate or alcohol addiction.

* Show clear blood work, especially liver enzyme levels.

* Be drug- and alcohol-free for 7-10 days prior to Vivitrol injection,

* Be in counseling throughout Vivitrol therapy, which typically is between four to seven months.

Blank said this treatment is ideal for people who may have a history of overdosing or who have “high relapse potential.”

“We’re getting ready to partner with some of the jails, to help people getting out of jail stay free from opiates and help their long-term recovery,” Blank said.

The only cost for people in the program is the co-pay for appointments.

For information about the Vivitrol program at The Centers, call 352-628-5020 or 352-291-5555.