Vaccines seem to be the talk of the town these days. Obviously, everyone is aware of the COVID-19 vaccinations that are getting distributed across the country. But what if a similar type of shot could “cure” people struggling from opioid addictions? As far fetched as that may sound, there is serious research being done to create an actual opioid vaccine.
FOX News reported on this development earlier in the month. According to their headline, this could be a legitimate “game changer” when it comes to conquering America’s opioid crisis. And the vaccine has some serious backing behind it as well. The work is being funded by a $25 million grant from the National Institutes of Health Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Initiative (also known as “HEAL“) and includes some detailed research.
Apparently, the scientists behind the vaccine believe it would protect the brain and nervous system, creating antibodies that target and bind to opioid molecules. The goal would be to prevent these molecules from crossing the blood-brain barrier and reaching the brain. If the opioid drugs were blocked from the brain, it could reduce the addictive tendencies and (hopefully) put a major dent in this ongoing epidemic.
Therese Kosten, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston and lead researcher on the project, spoke to FOX News about some of the vaccine’s goals. “Opioid addicts wage a daily war within over whether or not to use a drug whose side effect can be death,” she explained. “If those same addicts, however, had the choice to take an opioid vaccine once or twice a year, their internal struggle could be over.”
Similar to the COVID vaccine, this inoculation process is being explored in a variety of different ways. Right now they are evaluating multi-dose strategies, followed by a single dose immunization. The hope would be that after the final single dose, all of the previous cravings would dissipate.
Kosten also added that the synthetic opioid fenatnyl was being factoring in to these research tests. It is widely known that fentanyl is one of the most dangerous components of the crisis, leading to the largest amount of overdoses. This vaccine aims to target it specifically, helping people to steer away from this particular drug and avoid the risk of a fatal OD.
That is all very encouraging news and so far, this project has gained support from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Health and Human Services. Let’s certainly hope that it makes more progress in the coming months.