Is There Really a Heroin Vaccine?

There is new hope for those suffering from heroin addiction. A new vaccine is currently being tested on rats. The initial vaccine testing began in 2011, and human trials are just on the horizon. Professor Kim Janda, of the Janda laboratory, and George Koob, of the Koob laboratory, and other scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), have found a way to prevent the mind altering chemical in heroin from getting to the brain.

The new heroin vaccine attaches drug particle fragments to proteins that are better suited to promote immunization and act as carriers because they are larger. This is because the general structures of the drug molecules are unable to activate the immune system sufficiently on their own due to being too tiny and primitive.

In testing, rats that were addicted to heroin were weaned off it and then given the vaccine. Once the vaccine was given to the rats, heroin was reintroduced to them. The vaccinated rats abstained from the addictive behaviors.

An additional benefit to the vaccine is that it does not impinge on the effects of other heroin treatments such as methadone, buprenorphine, or other drug therapies that target the opioid receptors. In essence, the vaccine can be used in conjunction with these standard treatments, and increase the likelihood of successfully ending the heroin dependency. This vaccine provides tremendous potential to help the estimated 10 million people worldwide that are addicted to heroin.

Scott Edwards Leandro F. Vendruscolo, and Carrie L. Wade of the Koob laboratory; and Jonathan W. Lockner, Paul T. Bremer, G. Neil Stowe and Ashlee A. Nunes of the Janda laboratory were also involved in the study. The National Institutes of Health and the Pearson Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Research at TSRI provided partial funding of the project.

In a final note, there is good news for those battling cocaine, nicotine and methamphetamine addiction. Vaccine testing is currently underway for treating nicotine and cocaine addiction, and a methamphetamine vaccine is almost ready to begin clinical testing.