Heroin Vaccine Shows Promise

By Chrisanne Grise 05/07/13

A heroin-blocking vaccine has proven effective in rats and is ready for human clinical trials.

The way of the future? Photo via

A new vaccine to combat heroin addiction may soon be tested on humans after promising results were found in preclinical trials with rats. Researchers at Scripps Research Institute wrote in a paper that the vaccine—which produces antibodies against the heroin molecule and the chemical products of the drug—has “the capability to significantly devalue the reinforcing and motivating properties of heroin, even in subjects with a history of dependence.” Adds co-author Kim Janda, "The vaccine effectively tracks the drug as it is metabolized, keeping the active breakdown products out of the brain, and that, I think, explains its success." In the trials, the drug was used to help prevent addicted rats from increasing their heroin intake. "Basically we were able to stop them from going through that cycle of taking more and more heroin," says coauthor Joel Schlosburg. "And that was with the vaccine alone; ideally for human patients, the vaccine would be given with other treatments.” The vaccine does not block other drugs used to treat heroin addiction, so it could be used in addition to other therapies like methadone. Now, the researchers are looking for a drug company to sponsor clinical trials in humans, and they remain hopeful that this shot could change heroin addiction treatment. The authors write: “Although it may not be a ‘magic bullet’ against all aspects of drug addiction, the dynamic nature of our heroin vaccine represents a promising and innovative adjunct therapy in the treatment of heroin addiction.”

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.