Studies have shown that as many as 60 percent of heroin users relapse after treatment, with the first use occurring soon after treatment for opiate addiction. A new vaccine could be the answer to this staggering number.
Preventing Heroin Relapse During Opiate Withdrawal
The vaccine, developed by chemists at the Scripps Research Institute, has been tested on both mice and monkeys. In the mice, the results were dramatic. After being injected with the vaccine, the mice were injected with large doses of heroin. They seemed unaffected. When tested on monkeys, researchers found that the vaccine worked best in the first month. However, it continued to work well, with no harmful side effects, for eight months after injections.
How Does the Heroin Addiction Vaccine Work?
The study, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, describes the benefits and uses of the vaccine on mice and monkeys, but how does it work? This vaccine is like a molecular sponge. After it has been injected, it stays in the blood. If heroin is used, the vaccine is activated, absorbing the heroin so that it doesn’t have a chance of crossing the blood brain barrier. This means no sense of euphoria and a good chance that relapse will be avoided in the future because the user doesn’t get the same satisfaction from using anymore.
Why Aren’t There any Human Trials?
While the vaccine is extremely promising when it comes to help for drug addiction, it isn’t quite on the market yet, despite eight years of research and trials. The problem? Human trials cost quite a bit and getting funding isn’t easy. Most pharmaceutical companies aren’t going to fund a trial that has to do with heroin- or any other drug- despite the fact that it’s the first to work when used in primates. This means it will most likely be safe for human trials.
NIDA, or the National Institute on Drug Abuse did provide 27 million dollars for drug research in 2014. However, after the amount was split between the many different drug research studies, this relapse-prevention study didn’t receive enough money to begin clinical trials in humans.
Help for Heroin Relapse: Coming Soon?
Heroin relapse after a period of recovery can be deadly. With this new vaccine, preventing relapse could finally be possible. With a little bit of funding, this study could be on its way to human trials before we know it.
If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction, Gracious Care Recovery can help.