Scientists Take A Shot At Curing Heroin Addiction
Good news for recovering drug addicts: the cure might be closer than you think.
Though this advanced new treatment has thusfar only been tested on lab rats, U.S. scientists have developed what they think is an effective vaccine against the heady effects of heroin. Heroin addiction claims X lives every year in America alone, and is one of the most challenging addictions to kick.
Because heroin dissolves at such a rapid pace once it enters the bloodstream, pinpointing a cure has been problematic up to now.
How it works: this new vaccine is designed to collaborate with the body’s natural immune system and encourage it to target heroin components in the bloodstream before they reach the brain, thus limiting the addictive effects of the drug such as euphoria and pain relief.
Ordinarily, drug molecules are small enough to slip by the immune system’s defenses undetected, but the vaccine makes those tiny molecules more adhesive to larger cells that will trigger those defenses.
Professor Janda of The Scripps Research Institute, who began work on the vaccine three years ago, said: “The vaccine effectively tracks the drug as it is metabolized, keeping the active [chemicals] out of the brain, and that, I think, explains its success.
The rats were trained to press a lever three times to receive an injection of heroin. Like any addiction, re-exposure after prolonged depravity can easily lead to a relapse in use or behavior. However, rats that received injections of the vaccine stopped requesting heroin injections, whereas those who received no shot had no change in addictive behavior.
In another test, addicted rats were kept off of heroin for 30 days before re-exposure. These rats had previously been displaying the same compulsive addictive behavior that is observed in humans, taking the drug in ever-escalating amounts. After the month of abstinence, the rats were reintroduced to heroin: the rats that received the vaccine did not relapse.
The vaccine is designed for use with other forms of therapy as well, to foster both mental and physical recovery. The drug is set for human trials soon, as Janda said “We think it’s now about as good as it can be.”
Similar vaccines for use against cocaine and nicotine addictions are also undergoing testing, and a methamphetamine vaccine is in the works for clinical study later this year.
Probably why the final season of Breaking Bad airs this summer. Twist ending, a crystal meth vaccine is produced, “Blue Sky” becomes useless, and, left without a purpose, all drug cartels fade into legend. And no one dies.