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Santa Cruz County pilots new drug to help curb heroin cravings

By Jake Reiner, Reporter, JakeReiner@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Apr 12 2014 01:17:17 AM CDT

Santa Cruz County pilots new drug to curb Heroin cravings

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

Tim Matthews started using hard drugs when he was 21 yearsold.

"I would use heroin to come down from either cocaine or meth," Matthews said.

He's now 46.

"After 25 years of being a heroin addict, I figured I had better do something about it," he said.

Strung out on the streets and looking to get high, he said he jumped from couch to couch. He broke the law by cashing checks that weren't his and stealing credit cards to feed his addiction.

"I was arrested 27 times," Matthews said. "More than half of those arrests were drug-related."

He said he spent the equivalent of four years in the Santa Cruz County Jail.

Last December, he became a candidate for Vivitrol: a prescription drug designed to reduce the craving to use heroin. The drug has been piloted in a number of counties in California and has stretched across the country.

"This drug does not make you high. It blocks the opiate receptors so you can't get high from opiates," said Bill Manov, Santa Cruz County's alcohol and drug program administrator.

Opiates are narcotics commonly found in heroin and Oxycontin.

Heroin is ranked sixth in causing drug-related deaths in California from 2006 to 2010, according to the Associated Press. Santa Cruz County jumped in line to pilot Vivitrol, it has five active participants who can get an injection once a month.

"I look at it like this," Matthews said; "I could decide 30 times a day not to use or once every 30 days not to use."

Matthews said Vivitrol is so powerful that if he were to try heroin, he might overdose without even feeling high. Which is why he wears a dog tag so if he's ever in an accident, emergency crews know that regular pain killers that contain opiates won't work on him.

Matthews said he's been clean for six months, holding down a job as a tile installer.