In California, opioid addiction has run rampant, with 2,012 opioid-related overdose deaths­­­ each year. The number of overdose deaths since 2012 from heroin has increased from 362 to 587, and synthetic opioids deaths have risen from 146 to 355. While there are fewer addicted people across the state, there are heavily concentrated populations of opioid users in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. And like anywhere, family members, opiate users, and their loved ones are desperate to find a way to stop addicted people from using. Those desperate loved ones may have been the targets of a plot to distribute an unapproved FDA Naltrexone device, according to CBS news.

CBS’s report revealed that Naltrexone, a non-FDA approved implant that goes into the arm, is being pushed by doctors to opioid addicts in California. Allegedly, the money went to patients in active addiction. One essential requirement: They had to have access to health insurance. Insurance providers were billed up to $30,000 for the experimental device, and patients were then paid in cash for getting the implant. Doctors offered addicted people from hundreds to thousands of dollars to use their insurance to get the device implanted. People were paid to get the implant in Missouri and California.

“Hey Bud. I have at least me and 3 other people looking to come … and all 4 of us want the implant,” said a text from an addict to an executive with New Existence Treatment Center in Fountain Valley, California, according to screen shots of a text exchange reviewed by the Southern California News Group. The phenomenon is so common that some people have called the distribbutor directly, requesting payment in exchange for getting the implants. (The distributer, BioCorRx, is an Anaheim company that’s working on FDA approval for implants.)

CBS is still researching the matter to find other cases.

What is the Implant?

The implant is placed firectly under the skin in a patient’s arm, delivering anthese skin for months, delivering buprenorphine, a drug that blocks the effects of an opioid/opiate high. The manufacturer says  a continuous dose of a drug is delivered daily.

Is Naltrexone Safe?

The results of using the implant haven’t been studied, but Naltrexone injections have been studied in over 100 facilities housing inmate populations, as a deterrent to opioid use relapse once they’ve left the jails. It’s a way to keep prisoners from using drugs, and it’s also more convenient than other medications, with only one injection being given a month. There aren’t any long-term studies done on the efficacy or safety of the drug. It is also being studied for inflammatory bowel disease in much smaller doses.

Some doctors have said that a full opioid blocker is a dangerous precedent to set ethically. If a person has an opioid blocker implant, and they get in a severe car wreck, how will doctors be able to treat them? There are certain life-and-death circumstances that opioids may be necessary. When severe pain isn’t addressed, people can go into shock and die.