What’s the News: Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have now created a vaccine that prevents a heroin high in rats. The vaccine, detailed in a recent study in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, stimulates antibodies that can stop not only heroin but also its derivative psychoactive compounds from reaching the brain.
Two new long-lasting options for treating opioid abuse could help heroin addicts avoid relapses.
The new drugs solve a problem with the current treatments for opioid addiction. These drugs, called methadone and buprenorphine, are really just replacement addictions, and their use needs to be closely monitored; patients take them daily at a clinic, because they can be abused by crushing up the pills and injecting them.
The first drug, which was just approved by the FDA, is called Vivitrol: The drug works by blocking the effect of opiates on brain cells, preventing the person from getting high. The effects of one injection last for a full month. In a clinical trial in Russia, 86 percent of people taking Vivitrol hadn’t relapsed after six months, while only 57 percent of placebo patients had stayed clean. However, researchers note that methadone isn’t available in Russia, and say it might be harder to convince addicts in the United States to opt for this treatment.
Vivitrol’s long-acting effect provides a kind of chemical willpower. “Someone who’s interested in not abusing opiates only has to make one good decision a month –- or their family member only has to help them make one good decision a month,”[Phil] Skolnick [of the National Institute on Drug Abuse] says. “That’s why it’s important.” [NPR].