New addiction medication Vivitrol studied in Vancouver (BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS)

A new drug that could dramatically improve outcomes for people who are addicted to opioids or alcohol is being tested in Vancouver.

St. Paul’s Hospital is the only Canadian site that’s involved in a pilot study headed by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse’s clinical trial network of the effects of Vivitrol, or naltrexone, on people with HIV who also have opioid or alcohol addiction. Approved for use in the U.S., it blocks the brain’s ability to experience the effects of alcohol and drugs such as heroin.

What makes the injectable medication unique is that its effects last up to 30 days, explains Keith Ahamad, a family doctor certified in addiction medicine who is on a local research team affiliated with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The drug’s duration is significant because it makes compliance far more feasible for people hooked on substances like heroin who otherwise have few options aside from methadone, which requires daily trips to a pharmacy for treatment.

Gail Johnson reports

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