The Heroin Vaccine You Never Heard Of

By Brent McCluskey 01/23/15

A potential wonder drug has seen scant media attention and even less development money.

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A promising heroin vaccine has been in the works for some time, and it has even shown great success in clinical trials on rats. Yet, this wonder drug has received little media attention and even less funding.

Chemist Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute has spent decades working on vaccines for meth, cocaine, and date-rape drugs, but it’s the vaccine for heroin that appears closest to completion.

Janda has conducted clinical trials of the vaccine on rats, and the results were more than positive. Those test subjects that were injected showed no signs of relapse and were no longer addicted to heroin.

“It’s really dramatic,” said Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “You can inject a rat with 10 times the dose of heroin that a normal rat [could handle] and they just look at you like nothing happened. It’s extraordinary.”

But despite Janda’s triumphs, the research has received little in the way of funding.

“No pharmaceutical company is going to fund trials for heroin, no way,” said Janda. “For meth? No way. Forget about it. The heroin one has been our best success in over 25 years of working – it’s the best data we’ve seen.”

The paradigm on addiction is slowly shifting away from one of personal moral failure and towards that of a treatable disease. But the benefits of treating addicts extend beyond the individuals and can affect the nation as a whole.

“I am not sure Americans realize that if they treated alcoholism and drug addiction they would save quadrillions of dollars in health care costs,” said Koob. “Go into any emergency room on the weekend and you will see half are there for alcohol and drugs. If for no other reason, investing in research on addiction will reduce health care costs in the future. That’s something I believe in.”

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.