It is not news to anyone that we are currently in a state of crisis. Our country has been taken over by a threat that we cannot seem to get a hold of. Some may think we are talking about terrorism or one of the many other political issues America is currently enduring, but no. What we are speaking of is a threat that is much more deadly. One that is taking more lives than all of the terrorist attacks in the past 16 years combined, and one that is killing more in one year than the entire Vietnam War. What we are eluding to is the opioid epidemic.
With that in mind, it makes sense as to why so many new research studies are under way and why so many are looking to new means of treating such a threat. Whether it be new forms of treatment, or declaring this epidemic a national emergency, those in power are searching for ways to address this crisis.
Nevertheless, some of the ways in which politicians, advocates, and treatment providers are choosing to combat this disease have proven to be detrimental and counterproductive. A group of researchers have been working on what they consider to be a vaccination for heroin use and abuse. As this new “breakthrough” gains popularity throughout the media, we have to question, haven’t we tried this already?
Here are some of the things you need to know and consider when it comes to the heroin vaccine.
Facts About The Heroin Vaccine
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) believe they are one step closer to developing a heroin vaccine, which is said to block the effects of the addictive drug. The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and has shown to be effective in monkeys. The researchers are now hoping that human clinical trials are on the horizon. Paul Bremer, a graduate student at TSRI and first author of a study about the vaccine tells Live Science, “The vaccine sequesters the psychoactive molecules that heroin produces and prevents distribution to the brain. It essentially uses your body’s own natural defenses to neutralize the drug.” Rather than suppressing cravings, like Methadone and Suboxone do, the heroin vaccine is designed to mimic part of the heroin molecule in the brain, and in turn train the body’s immune system to recognize heroin as a foreign body; comparable to a person having a viral infection that the immune system would naturally fend off.
Kim Janda, the lead researcher of the study, is pleased with the study’s results thus far. While the team has been working on the vaccine for more than 8 years now, and has found success in rodents, the most recent trials consisted of testing 4 monkeys at the Virginia Commonwealth University. The heroin vaccine appeared to suppress the effects of the drug during the testing. Additionally, two of the monkeys showed an increased resistance to heroin when receiving subsequent doses of the vaccination. The researchers hope that the resistance to heroin will only become greater if they continue to vaccinate a year or two out.
Not A Magic Bullet
Although the research seems promising, even Janda admits that a heroin vaccine would not be a “magic bullet” against the opioid epidemic. Like other harm reduction tactics, the vaccination has its drawbacks.
Firstly, this new method would not suppress the effects of other opioids, including Fentanyl, morphine, or oxycodone. And, as we all know, prescription opioids are largely to blame for our current state of affairs. With that said, an individual who is interested in receiving this vaccine would have to truly be committed to staying sober from ALL substances. Unfortunately, if a drug user is not fully committed to the process of recovery, they will often times substitute one chemical, or drug, for another. Additionally, the vaccine does not aid in suppressing cravings when a user is undergoing withdrawal, so again, that person may be inclined to turn to other drugs if the physical pain of withdrawal was great enough.
Secondly, while a heroin vaccine may fight off the effects of the addictive substance, similar to maintenance programs, it does nothing to address the underlying issues associated with the disease of addiction. We have said it time and time again, and will continue to reinforce the fact that the physical aspect of the disease, is just that. It is one aspect; it is merely one symptom. Addiction is multifaceted and must be treated as such. Meaning, we cannot only address the physical nature of this disease; we must address it on all fronts. Physical dependence, mental obsessions and cravings, and emotional and psychological factors are just a few aspects that must be considered.
While we understand the urgency behind these potential “answers,” we also recognize that by removing the clinical and therapeutic aspect of treating addiction, we are selling the patient short, and in turn are doing more harm than good.
Contact Clearbrook Today
There is a reason why 12-step fellowships have evolved into hundreds of groups around the world, and why they have survived this long. That is simply because THEY WORK. We do not argue that we are in a state of emergency, and need to utilize every resource possible to address this epidemic. Nevertheless, we cannot reject and replace the solutions that have proven to work over the decades, simply because those solutions are not a “quick fix.”
If you or someone you know is currently struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, we can help. For 45 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing solutions that have proven to work. If you are ready to take the first step and change your life, please contact our Admissions Specialists today.