It May Soon Be Possible To Immunize People Against Opioid Addiction

Posted on: September 2nd, 2017 by sobrietyresources No Comments

The opioid epidemic is spreading like a disease, so it’s fitting that the next major development in fighting it could be a vaccine. Researchers reporting at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) say they’ve made significant progress toward developing a vaccine against the effects of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and heroin.

Fentanyl mixed with other opioids, like heroin, has proven an especially deadly combination. According to the CDC, death rates in 2015 for synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, increased 72.2%, the highest on record. All indications are that rates for 2016 and 2017 will be much higher.


“There is an urgent need to discover effective medications to treat substance use disorders. Increasingly, drug users are turning to opioids and powerful synthetic versions of these drugs that can sometimes be as much as 100 times more potent than heroin,” says Kim D. Janda, Ph.D., head of the vaccine research team.

Unlike viral particles, opioid molecules are too small to be detected by the human body’s immune system, so the researchers found a way of linking opioid molecules to larger molecules that the immune system will identify. In response, the body produces antibodies that bind to the opioid molecules and prevent them from attaching to opioid receptors. This is different than current opioid preventatives like methadone, which block opioid receptors directly. The team reports that they’ve had success with this method against fentanyl and also against a combination of fentanyl and heroin (pre-clinical success of the process in rhesus monkeys was shown in a paper published in June in the Journal of the American Medical Society).

The team also reports that they’ve made progress developing a vaccine against a potent amphetamine combination drug called captagon, a major problem in the Middle East, showing that the vaccine theory is potentially applicable to a range of drug addictions.

While not yet ready for testing in humans, the current research is setting the stage for clinical trials for what could eventually be a major weapon against a problem that’s claiming more lives every year.

By David Disalvo

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/08/21/the-key-to-fighting-the-opioid-epidemic-could-be-a-vaccine/#156c1b254479

Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved.