Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Approach Raises Hope for Development of Heroin Vaccine

Finding vaccines to combat drugs of abuse is an ongoing and challenging quest. The goal is to find compounds that produce antibodies that bind to drugs in the bloodstream, stopping them from entering the brain, and thus eliminating their effects. A heroin vaccine is even more difficult to develop because the drug quickly metabolizes into other active compounds. However, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., have tested a new approach that that takes heroin metabolism into account.

“The result is efficient blockade of heroin activity in treated rats, preventing various features of drugs of abuse: heroin reward, drug-induced reinstatement of drug seeking, and reescalation of compulsive heroin self-administration following abstinence in dependent rats,” said Joel Schlosburg, Ph.D., and colleagues in the Proceedings of National Academies of Science, online May 6.

The vaccine has a low risk for long-term side effects because it does not affect opioid receptors or neurotransmitter function. It would also require “minimal medical monitoring and compliance." The vaccine may not be a “magic bullet,” said the authors, but it may someday prove to be useful adjunct therapy in treating heroin addiction in people.

For more in Psychiatric News about vaccines for drug addiction, click here.

 (Image: Jeng Niamwhan/


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