A Vaccine against addiction?

It’s years in the future if it ever happens, and alcohol and marijuana present special problems that prevent them from being included even in the current research, but w0rk is continuing on efforts to create vaccines that prevent drugs like heroin or cocaine from having much, if any, effect on the user. Such a vaccine would not be a cure, but rather it would make the use of the particular drug vaccinated against have little or no effect on the user. So, for example, a user who wanted to be drug-free (that’s pretty much a prerequisite) would finish off a treatment program by getting a shot that would last for about six months. If he used, his immune system then would attack the drug molecules in his blood and destroy them.

You can read about the research in an article from the New York Times.

The research does raise the alluring possibility that at some time in the future, the day will come when addiction can be treated primarily as a medical problem.



  1. JeffK on October 5, 2011 at 7:00 am

    Interesting idea, though even if it did work for a certain drug I would think cross-addiction would be a concern – or, forgetfullness when it comes time to re-immunize. This is the problem with Antabuse, it’s not difficult to plan a relapse by “forgetting” to take it, or convincing yourself that you don’t need it anymore. It can work, in the sense of keeping you from drinking, for as long as you take it, but if you don’t have the treatment tools and drive to stop on your own then you’re relying on someone else to administer a pill or give you a shot. This just externalizes the problem and the solution, though for some people perhaps this is valuable if only to force them to build up some clean time, so that maybe they are more receptive to changing their attitudes internally.