Heroin Vaccine Blunts Drug’s Effect in Animals

TUESDAY, Dec. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — An experimental heroin vaccine has shown promise in an early animal study.

In mice and rats, the vaccine triggered antibodies that prevented heroin from crossing the blood-brain barrier.

"By eliciting antibodies that bind with heroin in the blood, the vaccine aims to block the euphoria and addictive effects [in the brain]," explained researcher Gary Matyas. He is chief of adjuvants and formulations for the U.S. Military HIV Research Program.

"We hope to give people a window so they can overcome their addiction," he added.

However, research with animals frequently doesn't produce similar results in humans.

The researchers also discovered that the vaccine produced antibodies against other opioids, including the painkillers OxyContin, Vicodin and codeine. The vaccine also dampened the impact of high doses of heroin, which suggests it might be able to prevent an overdose.

The vaccine was developed at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. The findings were published Dec. 13 in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

"Although we are still in the early phase, this study suggests that vaccination can be used together with standard therapies to prevent the withdrawal and craving symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal," Matyas said.

The United States continues to struggle with an opioid epidemic. Ninety-one Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2000 and 2017, narcotic overdoses claimed more than 500,000 lives in the United States.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about heroin.

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