Vaccine Against Heroin Addiction?

Researchers in California have made a huge leap in the quest for a vaccine to fight heroin addiction. They say they have come up with a vaccine that prevented lab rats from becoming addicted.

The Washington Post reports that researchers at Scripps Research Institute say their vaccine not only eliminated the pain-killing action of heroin, but it also prevented rats from becoming addicted to the drug.

Importantly, the vaccine appears to target just heroin and its compounds because the rats still got pain-relief from other opiates.

It has been a long road towards a heroin vaccine, as The Post writes:

In the case of heroin, the task is especially difficult because soon after the drug enters the body it rapidly changes – or is “metabolized” – into two other compounds that also are addictive. They are 6-acetylmorphine (6AM) and morphine. A useful vaccine would need to target all three compounds.

“Our vaccine goes through a dynamic process where it slowly changes in form from heroin to 6AM to morphine,” Scripps chemist Kim D. Janda said. “The immune system recognizes each of those molecules.”

How could they tell that the rats did not become addicted? Well, they did not push a lever that would have given them a dose of heroin through a permanent intravenous line, as they would have if they had been addicted.

The research appears in the current edition of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

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