After relapsing, addicts say Vivitrol program ended too abruptly

By  | 

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - One year ago, Action 2 News interviewed two former drug criminals who joined a graduating class of seven people celebrating sobriety— all thanks to a year of Vivitrol shots and a strict, accompanying program with heavy counseling.

"I'm not a slave to the obsession of the addiction," said Dan Olson last summer.

"I've pretty much got my life on track,” Nathan Lecker told us.

But what neither knew that day was they’d soon relapse, not able to adjust quickly enough to life without monthly shots and regular counseling.

"It was kind of like a very drastic, abrupt shift from not wanting to use at all to all the sudden being an addict again,” explained Olson on Wednesday.

Olson got off probation and lost control. “Two days after, I relapsed on opiates. On the second day of relapsing I overdosed- basically died. Had to get Narcan’d,” he said.

And he kept using after that, too.

Olson says he called the Department of Corrections, knowing he needed to get back on the Vivitrol shot in order to live. But his program had ended, and they couldn’t give him any more of the $1400 per month shot.

Lecker attributes his relapse to losing regular access to a drug addiction counselor. "I hadn't built a support network,” said Lecker.

“I think an after-care program following the one-year real strict guidelines would've been great,” said Lecker. “I mean, even being able to go talk to a counselor every couple weeks or as needed would've been amazing. Just something I could schedule and say, 'Hey, I'm not doing so good. Do you think I could come in and talk?’"

Lecker says he got into legal trouble after his probation ended, and is now in a relapse prevention program. He is attending an hour-and-a-half class with other drug addicts every week and taking regular drug tests.

Olson said he is finally back on the Vivitrol shot, using insurance and a doctor at Aurora. He has a full-time job, and has been sober several months.

Olson and Lecker don’t know each other personally, but neither was surprised by the similarities in their stories. It’s their hope that sharing by their relapse stories, the Department of Corrections will begin to taper the end of the Vivitrol program more gradually, and with more support.

"It sort of is a disease going on with addiction because when I take this medication, I'm not a crazy addict that's just like spiraling out of control, and I can live a normal life and pursue my ambitions and stuff,” said Olson.

Department of Corrections spokesman Tristan Cook would not tell Action 2 News whether the department actually tracks what happens to graduates after they leave the program, or if there are any plans to change its abrupt ending.

“While I’m unable to discuss treatment provided to specific offenders, the Department must balance the treatment needs of offenders with the responsibility of holding them accountable for failing to comply with the rules of their community supervision, which may include criminal behavior,” wrote Cook in an email. “Participation and completion in substance-use disorder treatment provides is vital so individuals have the tools necessary to effectively reduce their risk of relapse.”