Scientists are working on a vaccine to help people overcome drug addiction.
Researchers are looking into developing injections which will stop addicts experiencing a high after taking drugs by preventing the substances from reaching their brain. It is hoped that the vaccines will eventually be used as part of the rehabilitation and recovery process, making it easier for users to break their habit.
Current medication to help people combat drug addiction usually need to be taken on a daily basis and often have side effects, including impotence, anxiety and joint pain. A vaccine would work on a long-term basis although booster jabs would be necessary.
According to NBC News, scientists are currently working on vaccines which would treat addiction to nicotine, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and prescription opioids. There is also research into a potential vaccine for alcoholism taking place in Chile.
Ron Crystal, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, is part of a research team behind a cocaine vaccine which is about to go into clinical trials.
He said: “The concept of addiction vaccines is if you can prevent the addictive molecule from reaching the brain, you won’t get the high and you’ll stop using. If you snort some cocaine, it takes about six to eight seconds to travel to the receptors in your brain, where it will induce an effect of getting high.
“The antibodies have to be sufficient — like little Pac-Men floating around in your blood — to prevent the drug from reaching the brain.”
Heroin injection could also prevent HIV
A team at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, in Maryland, are developing a heroin vaccine which aims to prevent heroin from reaching the brain and also protect against HIV. However, if someone received the heroin vaccine, they would no longer be able to receive morphine as pain relief in the future.
Biochemist Gary Matyas, who is leading the heroin vaccine team, told NBC News: “I view any of these vaccines as a therapy for someone who wants to quit. They give a window where someone would have the opportunity to overcome their addiction.”
Drug testing can help identify people who have a problem with substance misuse and help them access treatment and recovery services. Tests are often used to monitor an individual’s progress in staying away from illegal substances and flagging up times when an addict has relapsed and started abusing drugs again.
Anti-drug vaccines would be likely to be used alongside more conventional methods like therapy and drug testing to help addicts to make a long-term recovery.
AlphaBiolabs offers drug testing services to a wide variety of customers including employers which want to help a recovering addict return to the workplace after a period of rehabilitation.