Vaccine may be developed to fight drug addiction


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A vaccine against smoking? drug addiction? obesity?

Seems unusual, but this article suggests it could be possible. Scientists are apparently in the works of trying to create vaccines that would help people with addiction problems. This is nothing new, as one scientist has been working on such a vaccine for 25 years (since before I was even born). In July, the scientist released results that said his lab had stopped the effects of heroin in rats.

However, when the study was moved in to human subjects, it was considered a failure because those receiving the vaccines gave up smoking at rates equivalent to those receiving a placebo.

The size of the molecules are simply too small, scientists think. Alcohol, which is ethanol (simply a two carbon chain with OH at the end), is too small to attach to the proteins that would provide immunity.

The scientists have also tried immunities against obesity. This immunity would block hunger signals to the brain. So far, the studies have worked in animals, but like the cigarette example, it may not be successful in humans.

This abstract from PubMed gives some interesting insight on the drawbacks of such a vaccine. There would not be any protection from other drugs beside the one the patient gets the immunization for. It might protect an addict from the effects of the drug, but it doesn't cure of the cravings a drug addict has.

Most importantly, an individual cannot be forced to get a vaccination. As the abstact points out, this would raise serious legal and ethical questions. It is likely to be a viable option for people that are motivated and serious about wanting to be drug-free. It cannot be a stand-alone treatment, but more as part of a big treatment program.

The potential for positive results are definitely there, but the logistics need to be worked out. The potential also exists for this to get out of hand and be used inappropriately, which could result in negative consequences.

3 Comments

Hey Esteban, interesting article. I highly doubt though that there is a drug because people are addicted to drugs, smoking and all aspects of being addicted to anything. My grandma smoked for 76 years and its all in your head. But well see what happens!!! I feel that it is just more like a mental aspect in the brain then in the body because what you crave you must have and until there is a successful experiment, I will have to wait and se it until believe it!

Brandon, I agree with you somewhat. As the abstract pointed out, the drug can be created to curb the effects of the drug but it wouldn't take away the cravings, which is what ultimately causes someone to relapse. But with high motivation, this could maybe just help with other treatments already out there and make it a little easier.

Interesting idea, not sure if would be so great in practice. As Brandon pointed out, I think the psychological aspect of addiction is strong enough to negate most effects of the vaccination.

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