There is not yet a vaccine for heroin addiction that is available to the public. It should not be ruled out, however, as a future possibility.
A vaccine for heroin abuse has been in the works for several years under the direction of Kim Janda, a chemist at the Scripps Research Institute.
Other scientists who are working to create an opioid vaccine are Marco Pravetoni, Ph.D., an immunologist and pharmacologist, and Sandra Comer, Ph.D., a neurobiologist.
The opioid vaccine would only work to target one specific opioid at a time. For example, there would have to be a separate fentanyl vaccine and oxycodone vaccine.
What Is An Addiction Vaccine?
Addiction vaccines work by preventing a person from feeling the effects of a specific drug and thus preventing them from being able to become addicted to it.
Different vaccines would work in different ways. Some would work by blocking receptors and preventing drugs from activating them.
Others would act as sponges in the blood that soak up the drug and prevent it from ever reaching the brain in the first place.
How Would A Heroin Vaccination Work?
A heroin vaccine would work first and foremost by preventing people from being able to feel the pleasurable and euphoric effects of heroin.
Ideally, a heroin vaccine would be effective against all opioids, including fentanyl, oxycodone, and codeine.
An opioid vaccine would work by teaching the body’s immune system to create antibodies that recognize the presence of opioids, stick to them, and prevent them from reaching the brain.
This immune response would prevent the usual pleasurable release from happening in the brain.
Why Is There No Heroin Vaccination Against Addiction Yet?
Addiction vaccines have been in development for several decades, but still have numerous hurdles to overcome before any of them achieve FDA approval.
Lack Of Funding
The idea of a vaccine for any kind of illicit drug use is a controversial subject, and, not surprisingly, one that research donors are likely to steer clear of.
Vaccine development is expensive, however.
Human Clinical Trials Still Needed
To be FDA-approved, the heroin vaccination would need to go through human clinical trials. At this point, the heroin vaccination has only been tested on rats and primates.
However, human trials are set to begin shortly for the opioid vaccine in New York and New Jersey.
Are There Vaccines For Other Types Of Drug Addiction?
There are currently no addiction vaccines that have been approved by the FDA, though there are also vaccines currently in the works for alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, and methamphetamine.
All of these vaccines have shown promise when tested on rats. However, none of the clinical trials on humans have had much success.
With further research and testing, drug addiction vaccinations could one day be a very real possibility against common drugs of abuse.
The Heroin Overdose Antidote
While there is not currently a vaccine against heroin addiction, there is, on the other hand, a medication that serves as an antidote for heroin overdoses and opioid overdoses in general.
The opioid drug overdose medication is called naloxone and it comes in an injectable form as well as a nasal spray under the brand name Narcan.
This life-saving medication works by blocking opioid receptors in the brain. It works as a heroin overdose treatment as well as a treatment for synthetic opioid overdose.
Medications That Can Be Used To Treat Heroin Addiction
In addition to there being an antidote for treating a heroin overdose, there are also multiple pharmacotherapies available as treatment options for heroin addiction.
Methadone has been used for decades in the treatment of heroin addiction and prescription opioid addiction. It belongs to a class of medications known as opioid analgesics.
Because methadone is also an opioid, it must be used carefully when treating opioid addiction. While much less addictive than heroin, it still has the potential to cause addiction.
Buprenorphine is also an opioid and is considered a type of opioid replacement therapy, just like methadone.
Both methadone and buprenorphine are effective in treating opioid addiction, however, buprenorphine is considered safer because it is less addictive and has more mild side effects.
Naltrexone is a drug that works for treating both opioid and alcohol addiction disorders. Unlike methadone and buprenorphine, naltrexone is not an opioid.
To take naltrexone, someone must be 100% sober from all opioids. People usually start with methadone or buprenorphine and then transition to naltrexone when ready.
Clonidine is a medication that is typically used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) but can also be used in treating opioid addiction.
Clonidine is most suitable when used as a transitory medication as a person steps down from methadone or buprenorphine into taking naltrexone instead.
Treatment For Heroin Addiction
The withdrawal symptoms from heroin are not life-threatening, but they can be extremely uncomfortable and prevent many people from even attempting to quit for fear of relapse.
Medically monitored heroin detox can help people get through the uncomfortable process of withdrawal at a rate that is both safe and comfortable.
Detox in a professional setting can also ensure that anyone going through withdrawal has constant medical supervision in case any problems arise during the process.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Dual diagnosis treatment is a type of treatment that focuses on treating a person’s addiction alongside any co-occurring mental health or behavioral health disorders that they have.
This type of treatment can be very effective when treating addiction, as it helps people to address the root of their substance abuse as opposed to just the addiction itself.
Other Behavioral Health Services
Other common treatments for heroin addiction may include intervention services, psychiatry, group therapy,
Find Addiction Treatment For A Heroin Substance Use Disorder Today
It is never too early or too late to begin the process of recovery from a heroin use or opioid use disorder, and we would love to help you or your loved one get started today.
Whether you are ready to get started at a rehab center nearby or you simply have questions at the moment about heroin or opioid abuse, addiction help is just a phone call away.Article Sources
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Library of Medicine: Pub Chem
- National Library of Medicine: PubMed.gov
- Scripps Research