Animal Testing Suggests Anti-Heroin Vaccine Could Prevent Addicts From Relapsing

A groundbreaking anti-heroin vaccine could help recovering heroin addicts stay clean. Scientists have developed an anti-heroin vaccine capable of blocking the drug from reaching the brain.

Scientists believe that the anti-heroin vaccine would help eliminate the urge to take drugs in recovering addicts and prevent people in recovery from relapsing.

The anti-heroin vaccine, which has been tested in four non-human primates, has shown its effectiveness to prevent the feeling of euphoria – the feeling that gets people hooked on heroin – by blocking heroin from reaching the brain, as reported by the Daily Mail.

While researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have yet to conduct clinical studies in humans, this is the first time an anti-heroin vaccine has been successfully tested in monkeys.

The anti-heroin vaccine works in a way that exposes heroin to the immune system, which, in turn, defends the body against the drug more effectively. The immune system’s defense neutralizes the drug’s molecules, preventing heroin from reaching the brain.

Without the feeling of euphoria – or in other words, without getting people “high” – people would be less likely to get hooked on the drug. It also means that the anti-heroin vaccine could help eliminate the urge of recovering addicts to relapse.

Developed at the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in San Diego, the anti-heroin vaccine was previously tested in rodents. Then, the researchers tested the heroin vaccine in monkeys. Seven months later, the vaccine was tested in even more monkeys. All of the tests have been successful.

The anti-heroin vaccine could become a valuable tool in helping recovering addicts fight the urge to relapse, as the studies have shown that two monkeys involved in the previous study demonstrated a much higher response than the other two monkeys.

Although all four monkeys demonstrated that their immune systems neutralized heroin, the immune defenses of the two monkeys with a previous background may have held a “memory” of the anti-heroin vaccine.

An anti-heroin vaccine is under development.
An anti-heroin vaccine is under development. [Image by Clari Massimiliano/Shutterstock]

The strongest immune defense response was seen in the first four weeks, though the anti-heroin vaccine maintained the ability to block heroin from reaching the brain for more than eight months.

One of the key findings is that no side effects were recorded in any of the four monkeys involved in the studies.

This is important because some of the anti-heroin drugs that already exist have side effects ranging from joint pain to anxiety and even impotence. In addition to that, those drugs must be taken daily to maintain their efficiency against heroin.

It is hoped that the anti-heroin vaccine could prevent heroin addicts from relapsing.
It is hoped that the anti-heroin vaccine could prevent heroin addicts from relapsing. [Image by I AM NIKOM/Shutterstock]

The anti-heroin vaccine, on the other hand, if proven successful in human studies, could maintain its efficiency for months or even years.

Heroin addiction is one of the most pressing issues across the globe, with around 22,000 people dying of overdosing on illicit drugs annually, according to NBC News.

In the U.S. alone, illicit drugs cost the economy a staggering $193 billion each year in health care, crime prevention, and loss of productivity, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Controversial animal testing has confirmed that the anti-heroin vaccine could indeed be effective.
Controversial animal testing has confirmed that the anti-heroin vaccine could indeed be effective. [Image by I AM NIKOM/Shutterstock]

The anti-heroin vaccine could potentially bring a tremendous change for recovering addicts. While it would be tough to include the vaccine into the standard childhood vaccine lineup, the vaccine could, in theory, help reduce the abuse of heroin around the world by at least a half.

Recovering addicts oftentimes relapse, and the anti-heroin vaccine could prevent them from falling off the wagon.

Nevertheless, the anti-heroin vaccine could only supplement the process of getting rid of heroin addiction, as using these kinds of vaccines is only one part of the long and sophisticated process of staying clean.

[Featured Image by Bangkoker/Shutterstock]