The extent that drug addiction has spread through the American populace means that all available means for treatment and rehabilitation must be utilized. Whether this is traditional 12 Step based treatment, psychotherapy, religion, medication-assisted treatment, or vaccines, all are necessary in order to help stop the rise of drug addiction that we have seen in this country.
Drug addiction affects each individual differently and so new treatment options have been created in order to address individual needs for recovery. One such treatment option that is currently being explored in labs around the world is anti-drug vaccines.
What Are Anti-Drug Vaccines?
Anti-drug vaccines are vaccines that induce an immune response that blocks certain drugs from entering the brain. This means that while a person who has taken the vaccine can still use drugs they will receive no effect from their ingestion. For instance, let’s say someone who is addicted to heroin receives an anti-drug vaccine for opiates. If they use opiates in any form they won’t get high or receive any of the desired effects from using the drug. This, in turn, will deter them from using in the future because the drugs are rendered ineffective.
As simple as a concept as this is, creating the anti-drug vaccines causes a unique problem for vaccine developers because the cells in our bodies that create antibodies, B lymphocytes, do not usually respond to drugs the way that they would respond to an illness. This means that the introduction of drugs like heroin into our bloodstreams does not cause antibodies to be created and so scientists have to essentially trick the body into creating antibodies for that drug.
Are Anti-Drug Vaccines Available?
Anti-Drug Vaccines are a fairly new creation but they are based on the same principles of vaccines that have been used for over half a decade. There are no known psychological or physical drawbacks from using them, but their effectiveness in creating long-term sobriety is still in question. They are none currently available to the public and as one creator of a potential heroin vaccine said, “No pharmaceutical company is going to fund trials for [a heroin vaccine], no way.” This is mainly because of the stigma still attached to drug addiction around the world and because of skepticism on the part of pharmaceutical companies that this is a viable way to treat addiction. While this may sound like it spells the death for such a drug, scientists are still working on creating them and getting the funding necessary to get it the general public.
The best we have right now are drugs that block specific drugs from binding with receptors in the brain, but after decades on the market, many have proved to be ineffective in curbing drug addiction.
One such drug is Suboxone, which is used for opiate addiction. Suboxone essentially renders any opiate ingested in the system ineffective, but one of the major drawbacks of Suboxone is that a person can become equally as addicted to it as they can opiates and the withdrawal symptoms after prolonged usage can be worse than traditional opioids.
Naltrexone is another such drug that acts as a blocker for substances, but this one is used for alcohol addiction. It works similarly to Suboxone and it reduces cravings for alcohol and renders it ineffective in getting a person drunk. It has a number of side effects and is said to be most effective when used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Results From Clinical Tests
According to chemist Kim Janda who works at the Scripps Research Institute the most promising vaccine that has been developed so far is for heroin addiction. He says that in the 25 years that they have been testing this vaccine it has time and time again shown the best results.
Dr. George Koob, who is the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, was involved in a 2013 preclinical trial on the heroin vaccine that showed that “heroin-addicted rats… didn’t relapse into addiction” after they were given the vaccine for the drug.
Vaccines for other substance have been less promising, though. A 2014 trail for a cocaine vaccine, called Succinyl Norcocaine, advanced all of the ways to the human testing stage, but they could not prove the vaccine was more effective than the placebo given. It appeared that abstinence was achieved at the same rate amongst those that were given the drug and those that weren’t and so the finding couldn’t justify the drugs effectiveness.
Another drug called NicVax, which was an anti-nicotine vaccine also failed to produce desirable results when it reached Phase 3 of its clinical trials. A scientist once again could not show that the introduction of the vaccine was more effective than the placebo given after a year of observations and as such, it has not been made available to the wider public.
What Does This Mean For Addiction?
While a vaccine for drug addiction does not seem likely to be made available to the general public in the foreseeable future, the fact that the scientific community is even attempting to find one is a promising start. It is clear enough that something has to be done to try to help stop the rise of drug addiction in this country and the more avenues we travel to get there the better. Addiction is not going anywhere anytime soon and so hopefully in time we will be able to find a vaccine that can help those who cannot seem to get sober through traditional means. As it stands right now if a person cannot get treatment or can’t manage to get sober through the 12 Steps then their chances of recovery are slim to none. In the future with an introduction of a vaccine that could not only block their ability to get high, but could curb cravings, these people too could finally get sober, and would no longer have to relegate to a future filled with jails, institutions, or death.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.