Dr. Keith Ablow
February 9, 2012
COMMENT: Reminiscent of the solutions to crime tried in A Clockwork Orange. Of course overcrowding in prisons has a lot more to do with locking up non-violent drug offenders, so this seems like a possible run-around.
With far less fanfare than they deserve, Alkermes Pharmaceuticals is setting out to revolutionize the penal system and help stop prison overcrowding by finally getting at one of the indisputable medical causes of crime (including violent crime): alcohol and drug dependence.
Alkermes produces Vivitrol, an injectable form of naltrexone that lasts a month. Naltrexone blocks nervous system receptors for opiates like heroin and oxycodone (the active ingredient in Oxycontin). In doing so it makes it tougher or impossible for people to “get high” from opiates and also makes it less pleasurable to drink alcohol. People who use Vivitrol, therefore, are making a biochemical commitment to block their own reward pathways for using drugs and alcohol.
Now, Alkermes has begun a pilot study of Vivitrol in jails to evaluate its impact on whether the inmates who commit to starting it in prison and continuing it upon release from prison end up staying out of prison longer. They are setting out to short-circuit the connection between crime and addiction by letting inmates decide to short-circuit their brains’ pleasurable response to getting high on heroin or painkillers, or getting drunk.