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Research Continues on Cocaine Addiction Vaccine

Dr. Ron Crystal, a researcher at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College, is working on a vaccine to treat cocaine addiction. The inspiration for the project came to Dr. Crystal in an unusual way: As he was walking by a new stand, he happened to see a copy of the magazine, “Newsweek,” with the words, “addiction vaccine” printed on its cover.

The idea took hold with Dr. Crystal. He started thinking about the possibility of linking an addictive molecule, such as cocaine, to a cold virus or certain parts of a cold virus. If successful, he thought, there was a potential to “trick the immune system” into thinking that the addictive molecule was a cold virus. The body would respond by developing an immunity to the cocaine.

How the Vaccine Works

The vaccine induces antibodies in the body. When someone snorts cocaine, the antibodies bind it up and prevent it from reaching the brain. As a result, the user doesn’t experience the “rush” or sense of euphoria associated with cocaine use.

The vaccine would render cocaine ineffective as a way to get high. Without the physical and psychological rewards associated with cocaine use, it may be easier to stop using the drug.

Cocaine Vaccine Wouldn’t Stop Cravings

The cocaine vaccine wouldn’t stop cravings that an addict experiences. A person would still need to undergo addiction treatment to learn strategies for coping with them.

Human Trial Starting Soon

The cocaine vaccine has already been successful in animal trials. Dr. Crystal commented recently that experimental animals can be given a shot of cocaine “and it doesn’t touch them at all.”

Dr. Crystal and his research team are currently recruiting people for a human clinical trial, which will involve 30 participants. This part of Dr. Crystal’s research is expected to be completed next year. If the first human trial proves successful, it will still be a number of years before a vaccine for cocaine addiction is available on the market.

Cocaine Addiction Vaccine Enters Phase I Clinical Trial

cocaine vaccineA new vaccine targeting cocaine addiction has just moved on to its next phase of research and has been granted permission to perform a study using human patients. A previous study was performed using rats that yielded enough information to proceed to the next level.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian are now setting up trials to study the vaccine on people. The Phase I clinical study will include 30 subjects at first. These tests are particularly exciting for the medical research community because a successful vaccine could help save thousands of lives from this form of substance abuse.

“Cocaine addiction is a huge problem that affects more than 2 million people in the United States, and results in more than 500,000 annual visits to emergency rooms. While there are drugs like methadone designed to treat heroin, there aren’t any therapeutics available to treat cocaine addiction. We hope that our vaccine will change that,” stated Dr. Ronald Crystal, one of the leaders of the study.

In order to participate in the study, volunteers will have to pass an examination and interview process. One of the more difficult qualifications will be that each participant will have to be clean from cocaine for thirty days. They will have to pass urine tests throughout those thirty days to ensure sobriety. Once the participants pass the qualification round of the study they will be split into groups of ten. Seven out of the ten will receive the vaccine, while the other three will receive a placebo. This will be repeated for the other two groups.

In addition to administering the vaccine, researchers will also be interviewing the study subjects to find out about their cravings and mental status. Patients will also undergo medical testing throughout the study to determine their levels of anti-cocaine antibodies.

If the vaccine proves to be successful for the test subjects’ cocaine addicts everywhere may have a better chance of eliminating the drug from their lives. Oftentimes cocaine addicts complain that the cravings and urges to use are so great that it is impossible to maintain sobriety, this vaccine may provide the help many of these addicts are looking for.