Alcohol, painkillers, 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," explains Chasity Stacy, a recovering drug addict.
But what if stopping was as simple as getting a vaccine? Twenty-five years of research is now becoming reality for chemist Dr. 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 drug's 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," Janda said.
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," he explained.
Janda stressed 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."
Janda said he believes his heroine vaccine will be in clinical trials next year. His team is also working on a vaccine to fight food addiction.
BACKGROUND: In 2010, there were an estimated 22.6 million Americans over the age of 12 that were current or former illicit drug users within the last month. Another shocking fact, over six million children in America live with at least one parent who has a drug addiction. Addiction is a progressive problem in the United States. Since 1980, the number of deaths related to drug overdoses has risen over 540 percent. (Source: http://www.michaelshouse.com)
WHY DO PEOPLE TAKE DRUGS:
To feel good: Most abused drugs produce intense feelings of pleasure. This initial sensation of euphoria is followed by other effects, which differ with the type of drug used. For example, with stimulants such as cocaine, the "high" is followed by feelings of power, self-confidence, and increased energy.
To feel better: Some people who suffer from social anxiety, stress-related disorders, and depression begin abusing drugs in an attempt to lessen feelings of distress.
To do better: The increasing pressure that some individuals feel to chemically enhance or improve their athletic performance can similarly play a role in initial experimentation and continued drug abuse.
Curiosity: Adolescents are particularly vulnerable because of the strong influence of peer pressure. (Source: http://www.drugabuse.gov)
TREATMENT: Currently, the best treatment out there for drug addiction is rehab. There are a number of different rehabilitation centers for all different types of drug addictions. For nicotine addiction, a patch could help.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Chemist Kim Janda, at Scripps Research Institute has developed a vaccine against a heroin high and has proven its therapeutic potential in animal models. The new study demonstrates how a novel vaccine produces antibodies (a kind of immune molecule) that stop not only heroin but also other psychoactive compounds metabolized from heroin from reaching the brain to produce euphoric effects.
Using an approach termed "immunopharmacotherapy," Janda and his Scripps Research colleagues previously created vaccines that used immune molecules to blunt the effects of other abused drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine. Human clinical trials are under way for the cocaine and nicotine vaccines.
The researchers linked a heroin-like hapten (a small molecule that elicits an immune response) to a generic carrier protein called keyhole limpet hemocyanin or KLH, and mixed it with Alum, an adjuvant (vaccine additive), to create a vaccine "cocktail." This mixture slowly degraded in the body, exposing the immune system to different psychoactive metabolites of heroin. (Source: http://www.scripps.edu)
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