More than 15 million people use opioid drugs, including types of opiates such as heroin, morphine, or opium, as well as oxycodone or other prescription medications. All create tremendous problems for users and for society in general, but in the last few years, heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions, killing an ever-increasing number of overdose victims in the United States around the world.
Scientists at Scripps Institute in La Jolla, California think an anti-heroin vaccine may be on the horizon, after early studies with nonhuman primates have been successful. Researchers are hopeful that studies with humans will proceed in the near future.
The study follows eight years of clinical testing involving rodents. Human testing is the next logical step, as the biological makeup of humans and non-human primates are so similar.
Training the Immune System
The drug works by training the immune system to produce antibodies that work against heroin by preventing users from experiencing heroin-induced euphoria. Once the body’s immune system is exposed to the drug, the new antibodies will latch on to the heroin molecules, blocking them before they reach the brain. There were no adverse side effects.