The Cocaine Vaccine: A Promising Addiction Treatment Option
A recent study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the US has shown promising results in the treatment of cocaine addiction. Results, published in the October 2009 edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry, show a substantial reduction in cocaine use in 38% of vaccinated participants.
The vaccine works much like other illness-related vaccines: by stimulating the body into creating antibodies. Anti-cocaine antibodies, unlike other antibodies, attach themselves to cocaine molecules, effectively preventing their passage through the blood-brain barrier, thereby preventing or numbing related euphoric feelings, or the ‘high’.
The study, conducted in Texas, randomly assigned the 115 participants into cocaine-vaccination and placebo-vaccination groups. Participants, already enrolled in a methadone clinic program, were give five vaccinations over a course of 12 weeks, and were followed for an additional 12 weeks.
Along side the regular vaccinations, participants also took part in weekly relapse-prevention therapy sessions with a trained substance abuse counselor. Blood samples were regularly tested for cocaine antibody levels; urine samples were regularly tested for cocaine and other opioids.
First Study to Demonstrate Vaccination Effectiveness
At the end of the testing period, researchers found that different individuals produce different levels of antibodies. Overall, 38% of cocaine-vaccine recipients reached antibody levels to sufficiently block cocaine molecules. During peak antibody periods, weeks 9 through 16 of the study, cocaine vaccinated participants tested cocaine-free significantly more than those in the placebo-vaccine group.
Therefore, those with the highest levels of antibodies showed the greatest reduction in cocaine use. About 25% of the participants, however, produced no antibodies whatsoever, possibly due to crack-cocaine use, which has a different molecular behavior.
Although complete abstinence was not yet achieved with the cocaine vaccine, the study is the first successful placebo-controlled demonstration of the effectiveness, although only mildly by comparison, of a vaccine against an illicit drug.
Is the Cocaine Vaccine Right for You?
Regular booster shots are necessary to maintain required antibody levels. As well, complete abstinence was not achieved in this study. Thus, so far, the cocaine vaccine appears most useful in relapse-prevention scenarios, and not in the initial recovery phases.
The cocaine vaccine is not an addiction cure, but is a possible answer to a question.
Much like other medical interventions for addiction, the use of Balcofen for alcoholism for example, the cocaine vaccine curbs the drug’s appeal, thus curbing an addict’s appetite. By blunting the high, the vaccine can help end the cycle of addiction, preventing the sink back into addiction.
As well, it is important to recognize that some form of drug addiction treatment and therapy are necessary, as the individual psychosocial motivations must be identified and addressed. However, the anti-cocaine vaccine could prove a very useful aid in the road to recovery and abstinence.
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