New Heroin Vaccine Developed to Treat Opioid Addiction

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Written by: on 18th December, 2017

More than 90 Americans die from an opioid overdose in the U.S. every day. But a new anti-opioid vaccine may be effective at blocking the euphoric effects of opioids without interfering with other treatments for pain and opioid addiction. The vaccine has been proven successful when tested on mice and rats in a lab setting, but must be tested on humans before the treatment can be used in clinical settings.

Blocking the Addictive Effects of Heroin

Heroin Vaccine

The heroin vaccine has been shown to block the euphoric effects of opioids.

The new heroin vaccine works by producing antibodies that prevent heroin from crossing the blood-brain barrier — blocking addictive effects of heroin such as euphoria and sedation. The heroin vaccine also produces antibodies against many other commonly abused opioids including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine, and has been found to lessen the impact of high doses that could otherwise lead to an overdose.

Those who receive the vaccine and who seek help for opioid addiction treatment can still receive these therapies to overcome heroin dependence, as the vaccine does not interfere with medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Additionally, the heroin vaccine does not interfere with most non-opioid pain treatments like tramadol and acetaminophen — meaning patients who receive the vaccine can still be treated for chronic pain caused by injury or surgery.

The heroin vaccine was developed in part by the National Institutes of Health, who conducted preclinical trials for the vaccine starting in May 2017. The new findings have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Cons of Using the Heroin Vaccine

While the heroin vaccine can block the effects of most opioids, this vaccine does not protect people against the effects of fentanyl — one of the deadliest new opioids being widely used across the U.S. Fentanyl is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, and up to 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl caused more than 20,000 overdose deaths in 2016, and is frequently mixed or cut with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illicit street drugs.

Plus, the heroin vaccine only treats opioid addiction on a physiological level by blocking the effects of opioids. The vaccine does not address the behavioral changes caused by heroin addiction — meaning therapy is often needed to help patients overcome the root causes of their addiction.

Effective Treatments for Opioid Addiction

Heroin and painkiller addiction can be safely and successfully treated as a whole using a combination of detox and therapy. Heroin detox is often safest when conducted as a medical detox at an inpatient rehab center, where patients can receive 24/7 care from nurses, doctors, and counselors as they withdraw from heroin. A medical heroin detox usually involves the use of medications that curb opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms so patients can recover more comfortably and with less pain.

Opioid addiction is also commonly treated using medication-assisted treatment, or MAT. With MAT, heroin or the drug of abuse is replaced with buprenorphine or methadone — both of which produce the same effects as heroin and painkillers minus the euphoria. Patients who opt for MAT can continue going to work or school while overcoming opioid addiction, since these medications do not interfere with everyday tasks like driving a car.

After going through heroin detox, patients can receive therapy to identify personal triggers and negative thoughts and behaviors driving their addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, relapse prevention training, and individual and group counseling are common therapies that teach patients the skills they need to successfully fight addiction and stay sober for life after treatment.

If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, understand there are many safe, effective treatments that can help. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 800-483-2193(Who Answers?) to speak in private with an experienced drug abuse counselor who can discuss all your treatment options, and help you find the nearest heroin detox center.