DENVER (CBS4) – There is now a Food and Drug Administration-approved, monthly injection to treat addiction to alcohol, heroin and prescription pain pills. It’s called Vivitrol. They prescribe it at Arapahoe House Treatment Centers in Colorado and they say it is working.

John, who didn’t want to reveal his last name, told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh he is an alcoholic.

“Wake up in hospital rooms. Wake up in jail. Wake up in detox,” John said, and that’s what his life has been for years.

“By God’s grace, I’m still here today to even talk about it,” he told Walsh.

Alcohol addiction has owned John for two decades. He grew up in a good family, attended Cherry Creek Schools and started drinking at age 17.

According to John, “At that time I didn’t get drunk all the time, I just maintained a buzz.”

CBS4's Kathy Walsh talks with John (credit: CBS)

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh talks with John (credit: CBS)

Drinks led to addiction and no job, no friends, no future. At his worst, John drank hand sanitizer when he couldn’t get a drink in the hospital.

“I know there’s alcohol in hand sanitizer. I go and steal a bag of hand sanitizer. I go to the bathroom and drink it,” he said.

Six months ago, John decided to give rehab another shot. This time, treatment came with a monthly injection of Vivitrol.

“Vivitrol is an extended release drug,” explained Arthur Schut, President and CEO of Arapahoe House.

Arthur Schut, President and CEO of Arapahoe House, talks with CBS4's Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Arthur Schut, President and CEO of Arapahoe House, talks with CBS4’s Kathy Walsh (credit: CBS)

Vivitrol is FDA-approved and non-addictive. According to Schut, it’s used to treat addiction to alcohol, heroin and prescription pain pills.

“It reduces the chances of relapse when people are addicted to these drugs,” said Schut.

According to John, since taking Vivitrol, “In the last, I’ll say six months, I haven’t had cravings.”

Vivitrol dulls the brain’s receptors. If users take drugs or alcohol while on the medication, they won’t get high.

“We’ve not had a drug like that before that works as well as this one does,” said Schut.

John is one of 100 addicts at a time on Vivitrol at Arapahoe House.

“I’m showing up for life today which I haven’t done for many years,” he said.

He’ll use the drug until he can manage without it. John hopes Vivitrol will give him the best shot at sobriety.

Vivitrol can cost more than $1,200 per injection. Medicaid and some insurance plans cover it.

LINK: Arapahoe House Treatment Centers

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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