In the future drug addicts that want to get clean could be given a vaccine that limits their high and therefore reduces the need to take the drug, according to a paper published in Molecular Therapy (DOI:10.1038/mt.2010.280).

The research is based on the concept that anticocaine antibodies could prevent inhaled cocaine from reaching the target receptors in the brain, and could reverse the addiction.

By taking a cocaine analogue and linking it to a non-infectious portion of adenovirus (a virus that causes infections in the lungs) the team was able to evoke an immune response to cocaine, but not a disease.

Three injections of the vaccine over three weeks produced high concentrations of anticocaine antibodies in mice. The antibodies trapped three fifths of cocaine molecules before they reached the brain reversing the hyperactivity in the mouse.

As cocaine doesn’t take long to get from the lungs (after snorting) into the blood and up to the brain (about 6 seconds), the research team believes the vaccine is very promising.

A lot of testing is needed before the vaccine could be used by humans, as it is unclear how effective it would be on very high doses of the drug, but the researchers are confident that it could be a potential treatment option for those who are addicted to cocaine and want to kick the habit.

Mike Brown

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