Possible Meth Vaccine

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Vaccines against specific drugs have been under investigation for some time. Researchers have had partial success with both cocaine and nicotine, and now there’s reports of a successful trial of a methamphetamine vaccine in rats. Demonstrating effectiveness in rats is a critical step needed to move the research into clinical trials on humans.

Why a vaccine?
The benefits of finding a vaccine would allow treatment specialists to inoculate abusers in a controlled environment and give them protection they carry with them out in the real world. And going back to their lives is where many addicts face the most danger – after all, that’s where they have obtained the drug in the past. Other drug treatments have to be taken on a regular basis – a weak link in the treatment chain because users might simply stop taking them. But if you could induce an immune response to meth by way of a vaccine, this would be a long-lasting preventative. Taking meth under those circumstances would engage the body’s immune system, essentially treating meth as a foreign invader and taking away the “high.”

Will it work?
Compared to cocaine and nicotine, methamphetamine is a simple molecule. That actually gives fewer targets to develop a vaccine for. To overcome this, researchers hooked meth to a carrier molecule and found that some versions gave rats not only an antibody response to the combination but also methamphetamine by itself.

When an antibody response can be induced, meth molecules are bound in the blood stream, keeping it from entering the nervous system and brain. This blunts or stops the effects. And without the rush, there’s no reason for an addict to take it.

At this stage, the research is promising but no one can predict how well it will work in humans. There’s a real risk of causing unwanted immune responses as well. It won’t pan out if the cure is worse than the disease. However, blocking the effects of meth by making someone immune would represent a new way forward in treatment in an area where successes are often few and far between.

An additional possibility
Besides blocking meth’s effects in those vaccinated, it may also be possible to harvest antibodies from one person (or an animal source) and use them directly to combat overdoses. The long half-life of meth in the body makes it particularly dangerous, since it can take days for someone to clear the drug from their system.

If antibodies become available, overdoses could be treated right at the ER, with the antibodies acting as a binding agent, even if a person hadn’t been vaccinated already. There are difficulties with this approach, but it has shown positive results in other areas.

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