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Heroin Vaccine Could Turn Body’s Defenses Against The Drug

By in Huffington Post on June 16, 2017

By Erin Schumaker

As heroin-related deaths soar in the United States, a group of researchers said they may be one step closer to developing a vaccine that could block the drug’s addictive high.

The vaccine is the first of its kind shown to be effective in monkeys, paving the way to human clinical trials, said the researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) who developed the treatment.

“The vaccine sequesters the psychoactive molecules that heroin produces and prevents distribution to the brain,” said Paul Bremer, a graduate student at TSRI and first author of a study about the vaccine. The study was published June 2 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. “It essentially uses your body’s own natural defenses to neutralize the drug.”

Heroin produces a high by activating the opioid receptors in the nervous system, triggering feelings of euphoria. The danger is that the drug can also cause the body’s systems to become too relaxed, causing a slowdown in breathing. A common cause of death among people who overdose on heroin is respiratory arrest. That is, the person stops breathing and dies. [11 Facts About Heroin]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heroin-related deaths in the U.S. more than quadrupled between 2010 and 2015, killing nearly 13,000 people in 2015.

The new vaccine is designed to mimic part of the heroin molecule, and train the immune system to recognize heroin as a foreign body to fend off, as it would a virus. This way, the body’s own antibodies block the heroin and prevent a person who uses the drug from feeling a high.

Hopefully, this […]    

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