New research points to an unlikely possible new weapon that could one day be added to the arsenal of the war on drugs: a heroin vaccine.
Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have developed a vaccine that protects against a heroin high.
"A vaccine capable of blocking heroin's effects could provide a long-lasting and sustainable adjunct to heroin addiction therapy," the authors write.
To study the possibilities of such a vaccine, the researchers used what they called a dynamic approach to target heroin itself, but also the chemical it quickly degrades into, 6-acetylmorphine, and morphine. To target the multiple parts of the drug, they created a vaccine cocktail that would slowly degrade in the body and expose the immune system to different psychoactive metabolites of heroin.
To test the therapeutic potential of the vaccine, they tested it on rats, and found that the animals quickly generated antibodies in response to the vaccine.
Researchers also found that rats addicted to heroin were less likely to self-administer the drug by pressing on a lever after receiving several booster shots of the vaccine. By contrast, all of the control rats (who did not receive the vaccine) self-administered heroin.