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.
(Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday June 28 2017, @06:24PM (3 children)
I haven't found the answer to my question: does it prevent withdrawal symptoms?
From the description, it doesn't look like it. So the addicts will just go looking for another high which still works. Recent market offerings (listed as not affected by the "vaccine") are more dangerous.
I'm failing to see the positive side.
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @06:50PM (2 children)
No, it would only prevent heroin from being converted into its active form.
The vaccine could be used to help willing patients break their addition. This specific vaccine is not meant to be a perfect solution for drug abuse, so it failing to meet that standard would not mean that there are no positive sides to its use.
(Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday June 28 2017, @06:58PM (1 child)
Genuine question: What's the worst part of breaking the addiction? Wanting the highs, or living with the withdrawal?
(Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 28 2017, @07:18PM
Withdrawal is usually temporary, while the desire to get high and the addiction to the drug lasts much longer. People can get past withdrawal, but many often fail to remain "clean" despite wanting to break the addiction.