I was just reading about a pair of vaccines being developed for the treatment of both cocaine addiction, and addiction to crystal meth. These are two pretty powerfully addictive substances, and if these proposed vaccines can do anything to increase the odds of success, then they would be very welcome additions to the current addictions treatment arsenal.
The way they work is that drug addicts are given a series of injections over three months, with each injection increasing the level of antibodies in the blood stream. These antibodies are designed to recognize, target and attack the drug, preventing it from reaching the brain. As more antibodies are released into the blood through further injections, decreasing amounts of the administered drug (cocaine or meth, each vaccine works for only one specific drug) actually make it to the brain. The vaccines are given over three months, and levels of the antibodies rise very gradually. The vaccine’s effects become noticeable after a month, and by three months, most of any administered drug is destroyed before reaching the brain. Because the process is so gradual, addicts feel little discomfort from the process of getting weaned off of their drug of choice.
Basically what these vaccines accomplish is that they allow addicted people to continue to use their drug, and get gradually less dependent on it through the action of the antibodies on the blood. As less and less of the drug actually makes it to the brain, the level of dependency falls, and it is far easier to ultimately quit using, with minimal or even no withdrawal symptoms experienced. These vaccines are not designed for prophylactic use across the general population, but are specifically to be used for drug addicts trying to stop using. These drugs are reported to greatly help with the ability to get off a drug, but do nothing to prevent a relapse, and as such they must be combined with other treatments if the individual is to remain drug free over the long term.
I think that these vaccines are really exciting, and if people motivated to stop using could get to rehab already virtually off the drug, they could then really expend all of their energy and focus to the learning needed, and a lot less to the discomfort and anxiety of withdrawal. These vaccines have one more step of testing to go before being submitted to the FDA for approval, and lets hope that all goes well, and before long meth and cocaine addicts can benefit from this new medical treatment for addiction.