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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Research: Heroin Vaccine Blocks Relapse Looking Forward To Human Trials

Seized Heroin Pellets
Seized Heroin Pellets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heroin abuse is a global problem...

Every year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime issues a World Drug Report. If you have never read one of these reports, you might find the 2012 report of particular interest.  Granted it is 112 pages, but you can review it slowly and gain some idea of the impact drugs have on our global society. Consider the following:
  • About 230 million people, or 5 per cent of the world’s adult population, are estimated to have used an illicit drug at least once in 2010. Problem drug users number about 27 million, which is 0.6 per cent of the world adult population.
  • The extent of global illicit drug use remained stable in the five years up to and including 2010, at between 3.4 and 6.6 per cent of the adult population (persons aged 15-64).
  • With estimated annual prevalence ranging from 0.6 to 0.8 per cent of the population aged 15-64, the use of opioids (mainly heroin, morphine and non-medical use of prescription opioids) is stable in all of the main markets.
  • However, some 10-13 per cent of drug users continue to be problem users with drug dependence and/or drug-use disorders, the prevalence of HIV (estimated at approximately 20 per cent), hepatitis C (46.7 per cent) and hepatitis B (14.6 per cent) among injecting drug users continues to add to the global burden of disease, and, last but not least, approximately 1 in every 100 deaths among adults is attributed to illicit drug use. 
Additionally, the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality (CBHSQ), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)  reported in their Results from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings that the number of persons who were past year heroin users in 2011 (620,000) was higher than the number in 2007 (373,000).

New research involves finding a vaccine to help heroin addicts get off the drug...

This week the results of a new study were published on-line in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Dynamic Vaccine Blocks Relapse to Compulsive Intake of Heroin. This research is being conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, CA. According to US News & World Report:
In an animal trial, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in California were able to cure rats of heroin addiction with the vaccine, which prevents users from experiencing the euphoric effects of the drug, preventing it from reaching the brain. The vaccine, which could be ready for human trials later this year, would likely make it impossible for an addict to overdose on the drug, because heroin and its byproducts are neutralized by the immune system before they can do any damage, says George Koob, one of the vaccine's developers.

Preview a short interview with researcher George Koob

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

The next steps will take time...

New research always brings hope. And the next steps will involve securing funding for further research, finalizing approval for human trials and working to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
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