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Body Brokering in Addiction Part 2: Implant Therapy

  • By: D. Dawn Maxwell MA LAADC MATC

The existence of body brokering in addiction is an old story in the treatment world especially in the Los Angeles/Orange County, CA area, also known as the “Rehab Riviera.”

Daily, new treatment centers pop up as quickly as they disappear. In fact, as discussed in my last article many rehabs work with body brokers and pay consumers to go into treatment so they can collect on their insurance benefits. These brokers and treatment owners often buy the client’s health insurance, bill it, collect the money then kick the client to the curb. With reputable news agencies such as the Orange County Register, accurately reporting on this elaborate matrix of insurance fraud, many overlook other less conspicuous acts of body-brokering.

From Sunset Blvd to Sunset Beach treatment owners are also paying clients to relapse. Vulnerable addicts are providing drugs, hotel rooms, and clean needles. This allows the client to “pee dirty” and be admitted into treatment where providers can collect upward of $1000 a day during detox. Many clients in need of cash have succumb to this temptation and assurance they will “make money and get back on track in their sobriety.”

What is less frequently discussed, is the same brokering theory, using alleged illegally imported naltrexone implants. Naltrexone (an alcohol and opioid antagonist) was first FDA approved in 1984 for treatment against opiates. It was later approved by the FDA in the 1990s for combating alcohol abuse. It works by blocking the receptors in the brain that cause the cravings and effects of both. Unfortunately, the oral form of naltrexone has a 70% fail rate due to a lack of compliance. (This means the consumer has to choose to get up and take the pill every day. Which often does not happen.)

Vivitrol, is the injectable form of naltrexone and also a very effective, safe and FDA approved form of naltrexone available to the consumer. Vivitrol last approximately 28 days and can be effective for many, reducing the compliance issue that exists with the oral form of naltrexone.

Which brings us to the newest form of available naltrexone in the marketplace. The naltrexone implant. Although the active ingredient of naltrexone is FDA approved, the implant to date itself is not a FDA approved entity, but can be safely compounded in an approved and regulated compounding pharmacy in the USA. In fact, many medications are now custom compounded by prescription in this country. Combining naltrexone into an a legally compounded implant is a great idea due to its long lasting effects (often upward of 3 months.) I have seen this used in treatment and it is a great alternative the oral and injectable versions. Plus unlike other addiction medications, naltrexone is not a controlled substance and therefore not addictive.

“…many of these implants are brought into the United States illegally and pose a public health risk.”

Unfortunately, like many other areas of addiction treatment, if there is a way to pay-off the consumer so the provider can reap gross amounts of monetary benefits, it occurs. Across the country, unsuspecting clients are accepting payments upward of $500 to receive a naltrexone implant, while body brokers educate medical providers how to bill insurance companies for major abdominal surgery and pocket thousands of dollars for a procedure that can generally be done in less than one hour in an office. Worst yet, many of these implants are brought into the United States illegally and pose a public health risk. Leaving a two fold problem of patient safety due to illegal importing and/or insurance fraud and patient pay-off.

So how can you, the unsuspecting consumer safely consider implant therapy in regards to naltrexone without buying an illegally imported pellet?

Responsible consumers and loved ones are suggested to do the following:

  • Ask the implant provider where their implant is compounded.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak directly with the implant distributer or maker if you feel your medical provider does not thoroughly answer your questions. This is your body (or your loved ones) and you have a right to know what is going in and where it came from.
  • Don’t be fooled by shiny words and well phrased promises. Many illegal implant importers create web sites with promises that are not true. There are several legal, well made and effective naltrexone implants available in the United States.
  • Finally, if anyone offers to pay you or a loved one to get an implant of any kind, run, don’t walk to your nearest exist. Reputable providers do not pay patients to get treatment unless they are reaping kickbacks from other sources and are in desperate need of having you on the table to bill your insurance.

There are many legal and safe ways for those struggling with alcohol and opioid addiction to reap positive benefits and maintain long term sobriety by being a naltrexone implant recipient. Do your research as a consumer. There are no shortcuts to safety.

Other implants containing buprenorphine or a similar substance also exist and are FDA approved. Although the buprenorphine-based implants are compounded with opioid replacements, they are often a better alternative to death and overdose. Do your homework and decide what is best for you.

Implants done correctly are safe and effective. Implantation is a modern form of medication-administration and can empower people to lead more productive lives. By consumers being made aware of the problem and taking ownership of their care, we can drive out those trying to take advantage of an exhausted addicted population and those who love them. If you have experience with implant therapy for addiction, please leave your comment. Awareness is power and together we can drive out the body brokers who seek to take advantage of the opioid crisis in this country.

Part 1:


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