Scientists are working to develop new vaccines to fight drug addiction that are more effective than current treatments, The Wall Street Journal reports. The vaccines use the body’s own defenses to block addictive substances from getting into the brain.
The vaccines are designed to stop the feeling of pleasure that results from using an addictive substance. The article explains that medications now being used to treat addiction usually work by imitating the drug in the brain or blocking activity in the brain’s pleasure centers.
Addiction vaccines works in the bloodstream instead of the brain, the newspaper says. They convince the body’s immune system that the drugs are foreign agents that should be fought off. While the vaccines tested so far show no significant side effects, they do not fight cravings.
Scientists testing these vaccines face great challenges. Most vaccine efforts are focused on nicotine. Although several nicotine vaccine trials have had disappointing results, researchers continue to test nicotine vaccines. A benefit of a vaccine is that it would be given once a month, which would be easier to stick with than daily nicotine patches or gum, Phil Skolnick, Director of the Division of Pharmacotherapies and Medical Consequences of Drug Abuse at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the newspaper.
Researchers are studying cocaine vaccines as well. Baylor University addiction vaccine Researcher, Thomas Kosten, explained to the newspaper that alcoholism, however, cannot be treated through a vaccine because alcohol molecules are too small to activate the immune system.