14 Jun A Vaccine Against Heroin in the Works
One of the biggest challenges to drug addiction recovery is the constant threat of relapse. Some researchers are working hard to find new therapies that will make drug use less appealing. To do this, there is currently a vaccine to immunize against heroin use that is now being tested.
The vaccine treatment zeroes in on the psychoactive chemicals in heroin that travel in the blood to the brain. The vaccine is designed to prevent those ingredients from ever reaching their destination. The heroin vaccine is being developed by the Scripps Research Institute.
Current testing involves rats addicted to heroin who are kept from the drug for a period of time. Normally, these rats are eager to start using the drug again at the first opportunity. However, addicted rats given the vaccine seem to have that compulsion curbed. Rats given the opportunity to access heroin by pressing a lever show less interest in seeking the drug after being treated with the vaccine.
If the immunization works as effectively in future human trials, it could help literally millions of people around the world. The Scripps Research Institute is just one of several groups investigating the possibilities of drug vaccines over the last couple of decades.
Already vaccines against nicotine and cocaine are being clinically tested and a vaccine against methamphetamine is in the pipeline.
Development of a heroin vaccine has been difficult because the drug is so quickly metabolized into other products. The new vaccine has been finely tuned to latch onto those breakdown products and thus keep them from crossing the blood-brain barrier.
If proven successful, treating heroin users with the vaccine could break the cycle of upward-spiraling use and help prevent relapses.
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