Unfortunately, the heroin and opioid crisis still affects Monmouth County. But what if there were a new way to help battle addiction? What if advances in science continue to give people another method to prevent drugs from destroying their lives? Fortunately, a new breakthrough with anti-drug vaccines may achieve this. But what are anti-drug vaccines?
What do anti-drug vaccines do exactly? For starters, they’re combined with other forms of intervention to help combat addiction. This is done by inducing an immune response that blocks a drug from entering a person’s brain. So if the patient is addicted to heroin, the anti-drug vaccine would prevent the heroin’s effects from entering the brain.
Here’s how it’s done. The drugs that people abuse like heroin and opioids are small molecules. Because of their size, they can easily cross the blood brain barrier. On the other hand, antibodies are larger molecules that can’t cross. Therefore, having the drug bind to the antibody prevents it from entering the brain. Also, a serum helps reduce existing drug levels in the brain.
However, they don’t come without some challenges. For example, B lymphocytes normally don’t respond to drugs. And these are the body’s best defense because they make anti-bodies.
In order to target certain drugs, vaccine developers combine two components. The first is a hapten that provides the template for anti-drug antibodies. The other is a carrier protein to help the body produce more B lymphocytes.
There are several benefits to this form of treatment. $193 billion dollars is lost each year due to loss of productivity, and the costs of healthcare and crime prevention. Using anti-drug vaccines can lower this cost dramatically. Also, in a primate study, only 20% of a cocaine dose was able to enter the animal’s brain. And another drug may be able to combat the effects of heroin in a user’s body. By triggering the immune system to attack the heroin in a user’s body, it neutralizes lethal levels in animals.
Anti-drug vaccines can soon become another way to win the fight against addiction. Until then, the Tigger House helps people on the road to recovery.