Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have been working on a vaccine that would inoculate people against substances they put into their bodies. The vaccine would work under the same principle as any other vaccine where your body ends up mounting an immune response against the heroin. They believe that you will train your body to treat heroin as a “virus” and create antibodies against it. Addiction researchers have been trying for decades to create a vaccine that stops the effects of heroin, with varying degrees of success. But the research team believes the experiments prove that this vaccine may really work.
They started off by getting a bunch of rats hooked on heroin. For 12 hours a day, the rodents were allowed to have on all the heroin they wanted. Once they started exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, the scientists slowly weaned them off the drug. During this four-week detox stage, some rats were administered the vaccine while others got a placebo. When the researchers again turned the rats loose on an unlimited supply of heroin, they saw the control group compulsively consuming the drug like they had before. But they saw the vaccinated rats lose interest in heroin. This showed that the vaccine had succeeded in binding to heroin in the rats’ bloodstreams before it could be absorbed in their brains.
Even if this vaccine were approved for human use, some still question whether it would be enough to truly break an addict’s behavior. Critics of such vaccine say that addiction is as much a social problem as a biological one. The vaccine wouldn’t block the uptake of other opiates, there’s a risk that vaccinated addicts could simply switch to a new drug.
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