SUBIACO, Australia — The hazy-eyed sheep shearer was shifting in his seat in a clinic in Western Australia, unsure if he could do what the doctor said would save his life. A heroin user for 20 years, he was now in the depths of a detoxification treatment. “I’m all alone,” he said.
In a soft voice, the doctor, George O’Neil, pleaded with the man to continue to the next stage: an implant of the drug naltrexone, a device that the physician himself had invented and that is an emerging facet of an impassioned debate over the best way to treat addiction.
“I don’t win with everybody,” the doctor said after the man had left. “But I try.”
Over almost two decades, Dr. O’Neil, 70, has implanted his device — which is unlicensed but legal in Australia — into thousands of people who have traveled to his nonprofit clinic in Subiaco, a suburb of Perth.
The implant delivers naltrexone, which blocks the effect of opioids, into patients’ stomach for months, eliminating the need for addicts to remember to take a pill or receive an injection.
Now, American researchers are exploring whether the implant could be an effective new tool in the United States against a scourge of opioid addiction that has killed thousands of people across the country.
Source: The New York Times, June 6, 2019