What if you could actually make antibodies against an illegal substance you were addicted to, like cocaine? What if you made enough of them to prevent the drug from getting into your brain and getting you high? What if such a regimen could take away the incentive to use the drug? Such a “cocaine vaccine” is in clinical trials and is showing some promise in helping addicts reduce their cocaine use. The latest study is published here, and a very good, accessible summary of the issue by Walter Armstrong is here on TheFix.com.
Armstrong points out quite rightly that the “vaccine” (and I keep using quotes because it’s not really a vaccine…it doesn’t prevent a disease) does not magically allow an addict to go cold turkey. It doesn’t help with cravings or other withdrawal symptoms. However, it does help addicts committed to recovery reduce usage and prevent backsliding, because the drug won’t get them as high anymore. The percentages of people this actually works in is significant but less than miraculous (only about 20%.) Therefore:
“I believe that this approach will work for motivated patients in that it will buy them a period of time where cocaine’s effects are blunted, allowing them to focus on treatment. There are clinical data supporting this idea,” says Haney, whose own study of measuring TA-CD antibodies in crack smokers was published in Biological Psychiatry in 2009.”
Armstrong really gets at the crux of the issue here:
TA-DC will join the many other, only partially effective behavioral treatments for cocaine addiction. Its trailblazing as the first vaccine against an illegal drug may, in the long run, matter even more.
Thus, it’s no magic bullet, but the idea is pretty cool and worth pursuing.
Another interesting thing are the comments on the Armstrong article, but the pschology at work there is another whole post, I imagine.