Scientists have derived the first ever successful heroin vaccine. The vaccine may be used to help end the current opioid epidemic and create changes in how the American justice system treats those addicted to heroin. Instead of imprisonment, patients may instead receive the vaccine to protect against destructive behaviors thanks to this recent scientific breakthrough.
A study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society reports that scientists have derived the first successful heroin vaccine that reduces the drug’s addictive qualities by over fifteen times. Researchers tested the vaccine on four rhesus monkeys, animals commonly used in biomedical research, and found that the effects lasted for over eight months with no harmful side effects. According to the Scripps Research Institute, the heroin vaccine is “the first vaccine against an opioid to pass this stage of clinical testing.” The study’s lead researcher Kim Janda believes the vaccine will clear safety trials and obtain FDA approval.
Researchers explain that the vaccine works by causing an immune response to heroin and neutralizing its addictive qualities, disabling patients from feeling a “high.” As described in a previous article by Liberty Nation, those addicted to heroin typically experience feelings of euphoria, physical dependence, and reward from the drug. While scientists are optimistic about the vaccine’s success, the next step is to test its effects on human subjects.
The importance of the heroin vaccine is greater now than ever. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine over 591,000 Americans currently struggle with a heroin addiction. The society notes that addiction is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with nearly thirteen thousand fatalities resulting from heroin overdoses. The current opioid epidemic ravaging the U.S. has also led to Hepatitis C and HIV outbreaks from the sharing of infected needles, as reported in a previous article by Liberty Nation. Moreover, the epidemic has resulted in an increase of babies being born with a heroin addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the number of children born with an opioid addiction has tripled within the last fifteen years, causing many hospitals to seek volunteers to cuddle and comfort addicted babies as they suffer heroin withdrawals after birth. One registered nurse from St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Colorado notes, “It’s rare that we do not have at least one baby in our nursery withdrawing from heroin.” The vaccine could help end such suffering caused by heroin addiction.
To battle the opioid epidemic, some public service officials, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have suggested lengthy prison sentences, as noted in a previous article by Liberty Nation. However, LN explains that incarceration is typically ineffective and has resulted in a seventy-seven percent rate of recidivism. Most Americans wish to pursue treatment for those addicted to heroin over incarceration. Counseling for those addicted to heroin may also prove more effective than legal action as a staggering number of those addicted to illicit drugs struggle with mental illness or faced sexual abuse as children, as reported by Liberty Nation. The heroin vaccine and other pharmacological advances in combination with counseling are likely to prove extremely useful in battling the opioid epidemic by getting to the cause of the individual’s addiction while terminating effects of physical dependence.
Liberty Nation will be following the vital next step in the process as researchers of the heroin vaccine is to test the product on human subjects. Although the vaccine is only effective for battling addictive qualities of heroin, vaccines for other opiates are currently being studied as well. If the vaccine becomes FDA approved, it will likely save hundreds of thousands of lives and contribute to ending the opioid epidemic faced by the U.S.