Scientists Revealed a New Kind of Vaccine To Treat ‘Heroin’ Overdose


The highly addictive, illegal drug- ‘heroin’ overdose has skyrocketed the number of deaths over the past few years.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported an increase in the number of deaths due to opioid overdose since 1999. Among the cases of fatal overdoses due to various types of opioids like morphine, oxycodone, methadone in between 2010 and 2015, those involving heroin tripled.

Heroin is a highly abused opioid that is derived from morphine. Like other opioid-based painkillers, heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. It gives an effect of intense euphoria with freedom from pain and a drowsy sense of well-being.

A first of its kind vaccine is being developed by The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) that could neutralize the effect of drugs when it reaches its high. The vaccine was found effective in monkeys that could soon lead to human clinical trials.

“The vaccine sequesters the psychoactive molecules that heroin produces and prevents distribution to the brain,” said Paul Bremer, a graduate student at TSRI. “It essentially uses your body’s own natural defenses to neutralize the drug.”

Heroin’s addiction highly impairs mental functioning and damages the decision-making ability of the person. The heroin causes constricted pupils, nausea, constipation, muscle spasms and a slowed pulse and rate of breathing.

The overdose of heroin causes respiratory arrest that is, the person stops breathing. It is the leading cause of death due to the heroin overdose.

The monkeys that received the vaccine during the seven months in the clinical study showed an increased resistance to heroin’s addictive high with the successive doses of the vaccine.

The new vaccine behaves like a part of heroin molecule and teaches the immune system to recognize heroine as a foreign invader like pathogens. Therefore, the body’s own antibodies block the heroin and prevent the person from reaching the addictive high.

This blockage to reach high may discourage a person from taking heroin next time.

Related reading: Teva and Regeneron $250M Collaboration Will Develop Chronic Pain Drug

Featured image credit: Bigstockphoto (heroin overdose vaccine)

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