Who would ever imagine that a vaccine cold someday be available to help heroin addicts deal with their problem? Well, such a vaccine is not yet available, but a group of researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) say they are closing in on such a realization.
The number of people who die of heroin continues to skyrocket in the United States, and this is probably the force that motivates these researchers to ride on. Their soon-to-be completed vaccine has proven to be effective in monkeys. This is promising news, because if they are good on monkeys, they can now be tested on humans with a pretty good chance of success.
According to Paul Bremer, a graduate student at TSRI and first author of a study about the vaccine, it “sequesters the psychoactive molecules that heroin produces and prevents distribution to the brain.” Bremer notes that “it essentially uses your body’s own natural defenses to neutralize the drug.”
The study, which now promises to be a big relief to heroin addicts around the world, was initially published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Should such a vaccine eventually see the light of day, it may take awhile before it actually gets to the reach of everyone. Even now, it will require many years of testing on humans before it can be cleared for public use.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin related deaths in America increased more than four times between 2010 and 2015. It reportedly killed about 13,000 people in 2015 alone. That’s quite a huge amount and it is hoped this vaccine will help to bring the figures down. The vaccine is intended to impersonate part of the heroin molecule, and then coach the immune system to identify heroin as a foreign body so it would send it out, just like it would do to a virus. The researchers are hopeful that this gets to discourage heroin users from continuing with the drug.