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Anti-drug vaccines could be game-changer

Posted on November 30, 2017 by Maple Creek

Facundo Rodriguez

I never thought we would have anti-drug vaccines one day, but it’s very likely we will soon. It’s no question drug addiction has a toll on many individuals and families around the world, not to mention it’s economic costs.
Researchers are working on vaccines that block drugs from reaching the brain, preventing addicts from getting high. The hope is that these vaccines could help people in recovery stay clean. There is even an anti-cocaine vaccine that has been approved for human trials. Chilean researchers are also working on an addiction vaccine for alcohol.
To break it down into laymen terms of how these vaccines will work or will intend to work, they basically block the “fun” of getting high. The aim is for the immune system is to develop enough antibodies to attack the drug. Meaning multiple boosters would have to be administrated throughout a period of time. The vaccines could work for months — or even years.
Another of these vaccines is the anti-heroin vaccine which is currently being tested. There is a few of these anti-heroin vaccine being tested; one is hoping to solve two problems at once, it keeps heroin from reaching the brain while also preventing HIV infection.
The researchers say these vaccines are just one part of a system of changing behaviour — but they could offer an essential respite for people who are trying their best to make a change.
If these vaccines really end up working, distributing them is going to be a whole other challenge. There is going to be people against this on every level. Firstly you will have the people who look at the current situation in Vancouver where heroin and other opioid addiction runs rampant, and say ‘well we should be providing these vaccines to those in those areas maybe that will help solve the problem’. And if the local governments decided that is a way to go, good luck convincing the taxpayers to go along with it. There is already such disagreement in having clean injection sites.
The other problem with this, there are other components to addiction. While blocking the “high” might lower the risk, it doesn’t remove the user’s vulnerability to addictive behaviour. I also have a hard time believing you can create something such as this and not have long-lasting side effects.
It’s a tough thing to decide on that’s even they end up working. Maybe like those who have taken prescription medication to stop smoking, this will help too. But for me, it’s a long stretch. I’m all for helping people with addiction, but I don’t believe it’s going to be as simple as a vaccine, though I do hope I’m wrong.

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