Upcoming vaccines that help cure drug addiction by inhibiting its effects


by Esteban Tejedor

Posted on August 17, 2021

Upcoming vaccines that help cure drug addiction by inhibiting its effects

The fight against addiction is entering a phase never seen before: that of immunotherapy. A revolution that has been in the making for a decade and is finally beginning to bear fruit...

Imagine a vaccine against cocaine. One prick and the addict becomes immune to the effect of the drug. Since you no longer feel euphoria or pleasure, consuming loses all incentive. For that matter, it would be the same as inhaling flour or dust from a work.

Now imagine a whole arsenal of vaccines that block the effect of heroin, methamphetamines, fentanyl... And that deprives all these substances of the power they exert over the brain and the will. Well, those vaccines are right around the corner. The biotechnology company InterveXion, in collaboration with the University of Arkansas, is already testing the effectiveness of an antibody against methamphetamine addiction with volunteers. And another North American company, Cessation Therapeutics, has received the go-ahead for clinical trials in humans of its vaccine against carfentanil, a very potent opioid, after having successfully tested it in mice and primates.

These vaccines create antibodies that attach to drug molecules, increase their size, and prevent them from reaching the brain.

How do these vaccines work? Immunotherapy uses two tactics: one is to flood the body with an injection of the so-called monoclonal antibodies, and the other is to stimulate the body itself so that our lymphocytes make them. In both cases, what the antibody does is locate the molecule and cling to it, as if it were holding it with handcuffs, thus preventing it from entering the brain. If the drug does not cross the blood-brain barrier, it cannot cause psychoactive effects. The molecules of narcotic substances are usually very small and circumvent this barrier, but in the company of the antibody, they are too bulky to pass through. So they return back to the bloodstream and are escorted by the antibodies until they are expelled through the kidneys and liver. In short, the vaccine acts like a sponge: it absorbs the drug and keeps it out of the brain.


Source: ABC
Illustration: MEKAKUSHI

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