17 May When “Just Say No” isn’t enough
A New Vaccine that Could End Addiction?
As most of America is aware of, there is currently an out of control opioid crisis among us. While the country is best known for it’s anti drug use tactics such as “Just Say No to Drugs,” or “No thank you,” addiction is still not, and never has been a choice of free will or correctible character flaw. Addiction, by definition is an affliction of the brain that must be treated as one would treat an illness such as cancer or any other chronic disease.
Researchers have come up with what could be a vaccine for addiction, a possible approach that may have a lasting impact against drug addiction or abuse. Intended for adult men and women, this vaccine would be principally for those who struggle with heroin or any other opioid addictions like Oxycodone and Fentanyl. It would be ideal for the people who would be at risk of death or overdose, also for those who cannot stay sober, but who go through the detox process and then relapse, as many addicts do.
The vaccine is constructed to stop opioids by effectively blocking the drug(s) from reaching the brain altogether, by way of the circulatory system. This process would not interfere with other treatments for addicts if chosen to do so, such as methadone, buprenorphine or a compound like naloxone that reverses the effects of an overdose.
When the vaccine is used by an opioid addict, it creates high levels of antibodies. By injecting heroin, the antibodies so much as grab all the drug (heroin), bind it up, and this way it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. The user will be unable to get high off using heroin, and it would be expelled from the body just a other waste is.
This process of using the vaccine, would be a great addition to recovery or addiction therapy while individuals are in the process of recovery. It would truly discourage the ideation of any relapse or romanticism of drug use altogether, the euphoria would just simply not be an option.
So how do we know if this vaccine will even work? The vaccine itself is still in the early stages of development and still must be tested on humans- a lengthy process which could take easily 10 or more years. Licensing the product could take even longer regarding the correct dosages, and the frequency of administration.
Experiments are currently being conducted on lab mice and rats regarding the vaccine. A lot is riding on these experiments considering the state of the nation’s crisis with overdoses, soaring over 52,000 Americans die per year which is an average to 1 our of every 10 minutes! President Trump has claimed this a public health emergency, but he is also yet to offer specific solutions other then legal action: urging the death penalty for drug dealers.
The US health and human services secretary, Alex M Azar II, has endorsed an expansion of what is known as medication assisted treatment or MAT, saying he wishes to “correct a misconception that addicts in this type of recovery must achieve total abstinence.” He goes on to say that “there are some addicts in recovery whom are in need of medicine to regain the dignity that accompanies being in control of their lives.”
If only that approach were embraced entirely by the Trump Administration! It is still unclear where the White House ultimately lands on this matter of medicinal intervention with addiction. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a notable advocate of abstinence in recovery, invokes language borrowed from the long-ago “war on drugs” by framing substance abuse as A MORAL FAILING. The 1980s phrase made notorious by Nancy Reagan was repeated by Mr.
Sessions in October when he said, “We’ve got to re-establish, first, a view that you should JUST SAY NO. People, should just SAY NO to drug use.”
Sounds like reasonable advice to a child or any other adolescent who has not yet indulged in so much as a puff of marijuana or even taken a swig of liquor. Unfortunately, it’s a whole other story with someone who is already familiar with drug abuse, or is currently on drugs. Many experts refer to the phrase of “Just say no to drugs,” as absolutely ridiculous. If they could, chances are, they would.
Although many people see Methadone Maintenance and other regimes are in some cases as a “crutch” in recovery, creating a substitute of one form of dependency for another, they compare it to people who physically have to use crutches to stand alone who have been injured or disabled, others may believe these treatments are no different from drugs such as insulin injections for diabetics, guiding people through troubled moments, moments that could lead them to relapse. These medication assisted treatments could be regarded to as “insurance policies,” against relapse, preventing cravings and preventing overdose.
The vaccine being developed is also intended to be effective as well against HIV and AIDS virus. In theory, it would block heroin from reaching the brain and binding to protein receptors. What this would do is eliminate or minimize the euphoria that heroin or opioids produce in users who relapse, and display high risk behaviors such as unprotected sex or sharing of drug needles.
Drug cravings would not be effected by this vaccine. Relapses are still to be expected and the vaccine would need to be re-administered in regular intervals to be most effective. The bottom line is that by not allowing users to get high, the medication would reduce the risk of overdosing in large numbers. This is the TRUE vision of the Vaccine according to one of the doctoral scientists who are helping develop the drug. Eliminating the pattern of relapse and overdose will save many lives.