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posted by takyon on Wednesday June 28 2017, @04:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the permanent-fix dept.

Dr. Lowe, from In The Pipeline, writes about the development of a vaccine for heroin:

At first thought, that might seem like a weird idea. Drugs of abuse, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine et al. are small molecules, and as such are too small to set off immune responses on their own. But a strategy could be to attach them to some larger protein that can raise antibodies – if those antibodies recognize the drug-labeled part of the protein conjugate, they may well retain activity against the drug molecule in its free state.

[...] It's been a long road. The first morphine immunoconjugate was described in 1970, and a morphine vaccine was tested in rabbits in 1975. But very little progress in the field occurred over the next twenty years or so, partly because methadone treatment for heroin addiction had become widely used. It's interesting to note, though, that vaccine development work against amphetamine seems to have followed a roughly similar path

[...] It would seem that we really are getting close to human clinical trials for some of these, which will be quite interesting. A drug-abuse vaccine is not going to be magic, though. Because of the specificity of the immune response, someone who's been vaccinated against heroin would almost certainly still respond to morphine, and most definitely would to compounds like fentanyl or oxycodone [...] But vaccines could, at the same time, provide the extra help needed for people to finally break free of a particular drug, and addicts who are really trying to quit need all the help that they can get.

I'd say that last part is the key. One of the big issues in drug addiction is (in the end) a philosophical argument about free will (which would explain why it never gets resolved!) Is drug addiction a disease, a choice, a behavior, a biochemical problem. . .the arguments go on forever, complicated by the way that different people attach different meanings to those terms.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by butthurt on Wednesday June 28 2017, @05:09PM (3 children)

    by butthurt (6141) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @05:09PM (#532524) Journal

    There's an effective antidote for heroin, which is off-patent but is subject to the Epipen effect in the U.S.:

    Naloxone, sold under the brandname Narcan among others, is a medication used to block the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. [...] Naloxone was patented in 1961 and approved for opioid overdose by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system. Naloxone is available as a generic medication. Its wholesale price in the developing world is between US$0.50 and 5.30 per dose. The vials of medication are not very expensive (less than 25 USD) in the United States. The price for a package of two auto-injectors in the US, however, has increased from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 in 2016.

    -- []

    The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an editorial (semi-paywalled) advocating its use: []

    and a series of articles about its use in Philadelphia: []

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday June 28 2017, @05:53PM (2 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday June 28 2017, @05:53PM (#532541) Journal

    If I'm reading this right, the vaccine would prevent heroin from affecting and/or killing you. It's the first responders or people/family on the scene that are administering Narcan, not the person who has had their mind blown. It can also take multiple doses of Narcan to bring the person out of the danger zone, which could be a problem (if you don't have enough or fail to administer the right doses at the right times).

    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @06:22PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @06:22PM (#532556)

      I know an EMT. She says they won't administer narcan unless the cops are there to hold the addict down. The first thing the addict does after the shot is get so mad at the EMT for taking away their high that they generally attack them.