Drug Addiction Vaccine: Medicine's Next Big Thing?

August 13, 2012

From meth to cocaine to cigarettes, millions of people worldwide are addicts. Many will try to kick their habit--few will succeed.

Alcohol, pain killers, meth, nicotine--it's easy to get hooked on them all, but hard to kick the habit.

"I didn't want to use, but I didn't know how not to use," said recovering drug addict Chasity Stacy.

But what if stopping was as simple as getting a vaccine? Twenty-five years of research is now becoming reality for chemist Kim Janda at Scripps Research Institute.

"Just blocking the drug before it gets to the pleasure centers in the brain," said Janda.

His vaccines literally prevents the user from enjoying the drugs' high.

"So what happens is that when the user takes the drug of abuse, the immune system recognizes it as being foreign, and alerts antibodies to attack the drug," said Janda.

Not only do they work to stop the feel-good effect the drug has, but could also be used to stop the effects of an overdose after the drug has been taken.

"We give the animal a cocaine overdose, we wait...it's going through convulsions, we give the animal an injection of the antibody, and the animal lives," said Janda.

Dr. Janda stresses the vaccines should only be given to people who want to stop abusing drugs. He is currently working on vaccines to block meth, heroin, cocaine and nicotine.

"These vaccines would be very useful for those weak moments," said Janda.

And they could help former addicts, like Chasity, stay clean and sober.

Dr. Janda believes his heroin vaccine will be in clinical trials next year. His team is also working on a vaccine to fight food addiction.


Cynthia Brauer
Scripps Research Institute

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