Vaccines may help people overcome their addictions

In the near future, vaccines might be a useful treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Researchers in Brazil have created a vaccination that stops cocaine users from experiencing the pleasurable effects of the illegal substance, therefore breaking the cycle of addiction. Cocaine’s ingredients prevent the drug’s pleasant feelings from reaching the brain and causing addiction by inducing an immune system response to the drug. There may soon be alcohol vaccinations available, which would be another therapeutic option for the addiction problems that claim so many lives worldwide. A 72% success rate in phase 1 clinical trials of the vaccine to cure cocaine has piqued regulatory organizations’ interest and approval. Scientists in Brazil created the drug Calixcoca, which keeps people from getting high off cocaine.

 

Because of the way addicts affect other people, cocaine use is as much a social problem as a medical one. It can cause major cardiovascular damage and mental health problems. Calixcoca acts by alerting the immune system to the presence of cocaine molecules in the body, which causes the body to create antibodies—much like when a virus causes illness—to the body. These antibodies attach themselves to blood cocaine molecules, causing them to become too big for the user to absorb into the brain’s reward system. However, cocaine usually produces a high by flooding the user’s brain with abnormally high doses of dopamine—the same feel-good neurotransmitter generated when positive things happen in daily life. By interfering with this metabolic process, users won’t be as motivated to continue their compulsive actions.

 

Studies on humans are being conducted, although the vaccine has only been tested on animals thus far. Calixcoca has been shown to shield rat fetuses from the effects of cocaine during pregnancy, suggesting that pregnant women may be able to shield their unborn offspring from the harm that comes with their addiction. It is envisaged that the introduction of such vaccines will be a major instrument in preventing deaths from cocaine use, in addition to social help and standard rehabilitation therapy. The demand for cocaine should decline as the number of addicted users declines, which might lessen the destruction brought on by cartel conflicts vying for control of the drug’s supply worldwide.

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