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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: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:39PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday June 28 2017, @09:39PM (#532655)

    But, but, but... if it's illegal, if it's banned, then there would be no reason to have any problems with it, it just goes away. Like teen pregnancy, and STDs, and every crime on the books.

    Yeah, seriously, any "banned" substance should be legalized, regulated, taxed, and studied to determine what programs need to be put in place to fix any social problems that result from access to the substance. The taxes can't be so high that they make black market smuggling profitable (after accounting for risks of death, imprisonment, etc. for smuggling.) But, in a world where we can charge $671 for a pair of epi-pens... it would seem like the "really bad" drugs could be taxed into a price bracket that would effectively keep them off the streets.

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