Have you ever imagined that a day would come when a simple vaccine could end the heroin crisis in our society? Believe it or not, that day is quickly approaching. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has successfully developed a “heroin vaccine” that has proven successful when used on animals, such as mice and non-human primates.
The next step would be testing it on humans.
This research is a huge step in an awful, rising time of addiction. The opioid crisis is proving to be a growing struggle that law enforcement all over the country is seeing a rise in calls for. This vaccine could very well be a game changer for everyone involved – especially the user.
How Common Is Heroin Use?
Heroin is made from opioids and is included in the national – and now worldwide – opioid epidemic.
This is considered an epidemic due to the extreme number of overdoses and deaths that occur due to the use of these drugs.
In fact, according to TheTruth.com, there are over 115 deaths caused by opioid overdoses every day. That doesn’t include the number of overdoses that people survive.
Most individuals who find themselves addicted to heroin started with opioid painkillers – 80%, to be precise.
The most common drugs that fall into the class of opioids are:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
The common overdoses are being discovered during many 911 calls. In fact, so many so that the signs of overdose and ways to treat it are to be taught to first responders of all types.
This change has reduced the number of deaths of those who have suffered an overdose. The signs of a heroin overdose are:
- Dry mouth
- Spasms in the abdominal region
- Intense drowsiness
- Confusion and disorientation
- Difficulty breathing
The last one, of course, being the one that can lead to fatalities.
What Is the Current Treatment Method?
There are current methods in place for those who overdose on heroin. Assuming that it is caught in time, the individual has a chance to survive.
Naloxone is used by doctors and first responders to treat (reverse) an overdose. It comes in various forms, such as a pre-filled, auto-injectable known as EVZIO or a nasal spray known as NARCAN.
As far as heroin addiction is concerned, there are methods that are commonly used to treat it. These include medicinal and therapeutic.
Medicines, such as methadone and buprenorphine, are used to soften the withdrawal symptoms while combined with behavioral therapy to tackle the addictive behaviors.
Using a combination of the two has proven effective, the relapse rate associated with heroin is quite high.
How Does the Heroin Vaccine Work?
The heroin vaccine was developed to allow antibodies to bind with opioid receptors/heroin molecules in the blood. In fact, it trains your immune system to do this. The binding then stops the heroin from reaching the brain. Which, in turn, means that there is no “high” received from the usage. And, of course, causing no harm, either.
The vaccine has been shown to stop a lethal dose of heroin in lab animals. It is also proving to be effective for addictions associated with opioid painkillers.
Is There a Benefit for Addicts?
Getting clean and free from addiction is tough for addicts.
Once sober, a relapse is only a breath away. And, with so many opioids – and heroin – being found on the streets (and in doctor offices), gaining access to the drug is rather simple.
For the heroin vaccine to be effective, you don’t have to have just taken your lethal dose of heroin. In fact, it is very effective to cut the addiction – which is what often results in the overdose.
Imagine having a vaccine that heals your addiction. Seems too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Again, because the antibodies bind to the drug and keep it from reaching the brain, you won’t feel it. Your brain won’t feel that high, so it cannot crave it. And, neither can you. This is something that all users can benefit from.
What About NARCAN and Methadone?
NARCAN is an antidote for those overdosing on opioids. Breathing becomes slow and difficult in an overdose.
Administering NARCAN can provide a spark to get the lungs moving again and reverse the overdose. It does nothing more.
So, the addict will continue down the same path. While it is not often prescribed to addicts, it is common for first responders, medical professionals, and even friends and family to learn how to administer in the case of overdose.
Methadone is a synthetic drug that was designed to be used as a replacement. It is similar to morphine, but it lasts much longer. Many clinics use methadone as part of their treatment.
Unfortunately, this drug leads to withdrawals and side effects that are rough and unpleasant. And, if taken in large quantities can lead to the same high as received from opioids. Methadone is an addictive drug.
When Can the Vaccine Be Expected?
The heroin vaccine is currently in the testing phases still. While it has proven to be safe, effective, and reliable in the testing of animals, it will now need to be tested on humans.
The dosages of each of the components will have to be adjusted to make it safe and effective for clinical trials in humans.
There has been no pharmaceutical company to pick up this vaccine in order to make it on a large scale – yet.
According to TSRI, the drug is one step closer to being ready for human testing. And, though there is no set date, they are closer to bringing a heroin vaccine to the mass market than ever before.
Heroin and other opioids are highly addictive and have led to many tragedies.
The ever-growing epidemic that is associated with them has created and National crisis.
The death toll of those who have overdosed on these drugs rises daily. One day soon the heroin vaccine will be available to make a difference for overdoses and addicts, alike.