Research done on primates shows that vaccine could be used to treat humans for heroin addiction. A vaccine that was developed by Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), was said to work in a way that blocks the “high” of heroin and was showed to work up to 8 months after being vaccinated.
This is the first vaccine of this type to pass the current stage of testing, as scientist hope it will get approved for clinical testing.
The vaccine works by teaching the immune system to create antibodies against heroin, and that stops the psychoactive products within it that cause the “high”. This is done by exposing the immune system, to part of the heroin molecules structure.
After the vaccine was used, and heroin is introduced into the system, the new antibodies will immediately target it. The test subjects or monkeys, in this case, didn’t feel the high from heroin because it was neutralized before it reached the brain.
The hope for this vaccine is that it will eliminate the “high” that addicts get, by completely removing it and their motivation for taking the drug. This is exactly why scientist think they found the cure for heroin addicts because it is believed if you don’t achieve the wanted effect, then it will prevent addicts from relapsing.
The study was observed as monkeys were injected with the vaccine before they were given heroin. The researchers found that all four monkeys had an effective immune response. It was found that the vaccine was most effective in the first month of its use, but the effect could last up to eight months.
Two of the four monkeys were exposed to this vaccine in a previous study done seven months prior to this one. These two monkeys showed a much higher response to the vaccine in this second round, raising the hopes of an effective long-term treatment. If the effects can be replicated in humans, it will mean that heroin addicts will be given long-term immunity to heroin, helping them with their recovery.
This research was published by Journal of the American Chemical Society, and the next step will be to license the vaccine to an outside company for partnering in clinical trials, as we wait to see if this could indeed be a cure for addiction.