Vaccinating Against Addiction
For many people who struggle with substance abuse, the idea of being able to take something to stop the cravings, withdrawals and other problems associated with addiction would be a dream come true. To have the opportunity to nip a substance abuse problem in the bud and not be tempted to take the drug again would be highly desirable. For parents, law enforcement officials and medical professionals, immunizing children against the disasters associated with drug use could be a life saver.
One tool has been developed by husband and wife team, Dr’s Thomas and Therese Kosten that makes the idea possible. For over 20 years, the duo have worked on developing a vaccine for cocaine addiction. The vaccine works by stimulating the immune system to attack the drug when it enters the body. For cocaine addicts, this would mean that they would be immunized against the effects of the drug.
Cocaine Vaccine Mechanism
The vaccine, dubbed TA-CD works by stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies to fight the presence of cocaine in the body. These antibodies will alter the bodies response to cocaine when it is used, meaning that the euphoria and pleasurable feelings associated with the drug are not felt. The brain does not get affected by cocaine and the user will not get high.
When a person takes cocaine, the substance is absorbed and the particles are so tiny that the body does not make antibodies to fight the foreign item. Dr’s Kosten have managed to work out a way to get the body to make antibodies and reduce the effects of the drug. This vaccine was made by combining the cocaine with another, larger toxin that the body will fight. In the case of TA-CD, that toxin was cholera. In the process of fighting against the combined cocaine-cholera toxin, the body will make antibodies for both cocaine and cholera. The cocaine molecules are disposed of by the antibodies before they cross the blood-brain barrier and trigger the release of dopamine which means no high and much less motivation to take the drug.
Associated Risks and Limitations
Although this vaccine poses many favorable outcomes for drug addicts and their families, it is not a one stop solution that can solve all the problems drug users face. The TA-CD vaccine cannot stop other symptoms associated with recovering from cocaine addiction. Cravings are not reduced, painful withdrawals are still experienced, the behavioral and emotional problems are not fixed and other personal and financial issues associated with the drug use are not solved.
One of the more serious implications that has come up in the clinical trials of the vaccine is that some cocaine users attempted to get high while being inoculated. In some cases, the addicts were taking up to 10 times their usual amount of cocaine trying to get any of the pleasurable and euphoric effects that the drug usually creates.
This vaccine offers hope for many people, including addicts and medical professionals. It is reported to be in stage 2 of the process of clinical trials with hopeful results. Immunization was reported to not provide complete abstinence from cocaine use, but the significant reduction in use does suggest that the vaccine will be beneficial. Interestingly, almost a quarter of all users who were given the vaccine did not make antibodies to cocaine and research into the reasons why are continuing.
No Single Treatment
Substance abuse is a complex issue that is unique to every person. No two people will respond the same way to treatments, and this is no different for the TA-CD vaccine. Used on its own, the vaccine will not be able to provide effective relief for a cocaine addict. Used in conjunction with cognitive behavior therapy , psychotherapy, medical detoxification and skill development, substance abusers will have a significantly better outcome of overcoming their addiction. Substance abusers need to be willing to take the steps and make changes to their life to help them stop their addiction and their drug-based life. Supportive family and friends also make the road to recovery easier.