Scientists are creating a Vaccine against Drug Addiction

Scientists are creating a Vaccine against Drug Addiction

A vaccine against Drug Addiction is Finally Possible.

Drug Addiction is arguably the biggest social problem of the Western world. There are millions of heroin users in the United States and the number keeps on increasing every year. The facts linked to drug addiction and casualties are too serious to ignore.

Nearly half a million people died due to drug overdoses in America between 2000 and 2015. This number is also on the rise as 60000 lost their lives in 2016 alone. Annually $193 billion is spent in domains of healthcare, crime prevention and loss of productivity.

Fighting against drug addiction is a phase where even a single mistake can send you back to the world of darkness. A lot of people try to recover but the success rate is quite low. That’s why scientists are looking for a chemical solution that could assist during the rehab of such patients. Research is being done to make vaccines that will block drugs from reaching the brain.

Surely, no one will bother to take heroin if you are not getting high. Having said that, the purpose of this drug will be to keep patients clean during their treatment and it will not be used as a regular immune vaccine. Tom Price, Secretary for Health and Human Services in America, announced that they are researching on this amazing drug and said,

“An incredibly exciting prospect.”

There are some products available in the market that can help in this regard but they have numerous side effects which include impotency and anxiety. The latest development in this field is the work done on Fenethylline. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Researchers acknowledged the rate of increase and Kim Janda, who is a chemist at Scripps Research Institute said,

“There is an urgent need to discover effective medications to treat substance use disorders. Increasingly, drug users are turning to opioids and powerful synthetic versions of these drugs that can sometimes be as much as 100 times more potent than heroin. Moreover, many patients [are] receiving treatment relapse.”

The research by Jinda and his team had a dual nature. They are trying to develop vaccines not only against the drug but also to tackle the metabolic breakdown components of them. They have named this process ‘Incremental Vaccination’. The effects of synthetic substitutes are much more powerful than the conventional drugs. They are also cheap and can be developed at a much rapid pace. Janda told Seeker about that in the following words:

“It’s an economics thing. They start putting in things like fentanyl because it’s much more potent and inexpensive. We’ll see more problems going forward, simply because it takes a couple of months to grow poppies, but it only takes a couple of days to make the synthetic opioid.”

Vaccines train our body to counter against harmful components like bacteria and viruses. About it Ron Crystal, who developed a vaccine against cocaine, said,

“The concept of addiction vaccines is if you can prevent the addictive molecule from reaching the brain, you won’t get high and you’ll stop using.”

The problem here is that our body cannot recognize the molecules of abusive drugs as they are too small. No threat is detected by the immune system and hence no defensive action is taken. This also explains why millions of smokers are present around us despite the fact that injurious nicotine is flowing everywhere inside their body. For tackling this issue, Janda’s team designed small molecules, like opioid, called ‘haptens’ and attached ‘epitopes’ to it. This will help anti-bodies to detect addictive particles following this training. The vaccination provided by them will prevent the drug from reaching the brain for up to 8 months.

Experiments have been performed on monkeys and mice until now. The results are far from complete so application on humans will have to wait as scientists tend to gather some concrete data. If all these efforts are successful, it will be a huge boost to treat fatal drug addiction. However, Janda did mention the pre-requisite and said,

“Vaccines are meant to be used by people who want to quit taking drugs. If you don’t want to stop then nothing will help. The idea is that if they have a moment of weakness, they won’t relapse and can continue with their therapy.”

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