A Vaccine for Heroin Addiction?

Although a vaccine for heroin is an interesting concept, while the work on this is continuing individuals are still struggling with their addiction. To this effect heroin addiction treatment is not only effective but available now.

New research published on line by the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Medicinal Chemistry suggests that we are closer than we have ever been to providing a vaccine to prevent heroin addiction. The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health and the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research, is still in its early stages.

The testing which has been carried out by Scripps Research so far has only been conducted on animals.  Human testing, clinical trials and FDA approval are some time in the future. However the study called "A Vaccine Strategy that Induces Protective Immunity Against Heroin" has gone some way to showing that a novel vaccine is capable of creating an immune molecule that prevents heroin and other psychoactive compounds metabolised from heroin from making it to the brain and thus diminishing the euphoric effects felt by the user.

Kim D. Janda, a member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research and Junior Chair in Chemistry  is the study’s lead investigator and is quoted as saying “In the 25 years of making drug-of-abuse vaccines I haven’t seen such a strong immune response as I have with with what we term a dynamic anti-heroin vaccine. It’s extremely effective. The hope is that such a protective vaccine will be an effective therapeutic option for those trying to break their addiction to heroin.

Scripps Research team say they have targeted not just heroin but the chemicals it breaks down into which are 6-acetylmorphine and morphine thus using a dynamic approach, something other researchers have failed to do when working to create an effective vaccine for heroin. Rats who were injected with the vaccine were seen to self administer heroin using the specially rigged lever far less after receiving several booster shots. The vaccine itself is drug specific and produces antibodies only for heroin and its molecular compounds and not other opiate related substances such as oxycodeine and other drugs that are frequently used to treat heroin addiction such as methadone and naltrexone.

This in itself is a positive finding and means that there is a real possibility once human testing and clinical trials have taken place that the vaccine could be used alongside other drugs for the treatment of heroin and other opiate related addictions. The next step is for the Scripps Research  to collaborate with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to investigate the possibilities of creating a dual purpose single shot vaccine for the treatment of heroin addiction and HIV.

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