Recent discoveries have allowed better understanding of the mechanisms of drug dependence. Thanks to these advanced therapies appear at hand. Among the most promising, the development of a “antidependance vaccine” would fall under more science fiction.
Coffee, alcohol, tobacco, cocaine… and if a vaccine could tomorrow make you spend your bad habits and your dependencies?… The idea is not recent, but researchers have never been as close to the goal.
A sting against cocaine
It is in the 1970s that American scientists are considering for the first time the possibility of a vaccine against the drug. Before the arrival of methadone, this research axis receives a favourable response on the part of concerned parents for their offspring in full hippie period. But different tests for heroin ultimately proved inconclusive. Fortunately, its support is currently based on effective treatments: Subutex and methadone.
The most serious hopes are cocaine, amphetamines and nicotine.
To get an immune response of our body against cocaine, the puzzle lies in the size of the molecules too small to be naturally perceived as threats. The trick is to attach to this molecule a protein readily recognized by the immune system, which will lead to the production of antibodies. Captured by the guardians of our immunity, cocaine molecules cannot reach the brain and more particularly neuronal receptors. In this area, several scientific1,2,3 teams compete the discovery.
The English company Xenova nevertheless seems to hold the head. Tests of the immunization of four to five doses of the “TA-CD” are underway across the channel. Previous tests4 had helped to confirm the safety of this product and its influence on the decrease of the euphoric properties of the drug in five of the six patients enrolled. Antibodies were detected in the blood several months after the injections. “With more than one million of cocaine to the United States only, there a real need of an effective therapy to help drug addicts to solve their problem of dependency” said David Oxlade, president of the pharmaceutical firm. The company also tests for the TA – NIC vaccine against nicotine addiction.
An anti-smoking vaccine
For tobacco, the principle is similar to that used for cocaine. This is to reduce the amount of nicotine to the brain. Already tested on rats, the vaccine was successful in reducing the effect of nicotine on the feelings of lack and blood pressure5. Levels of free nicotine in the blood (unrelated to an antibody) have even dropped from 40 to 60%.
But if nicotine does more to the brain, the feeling of lack will be mitigated? Not really, according to experts, it is why vaccine would more willingly come as part of a therapeutic approach where it would be associated with alternatives. This perspective has already obtained promising results in rats6.