Is the Opioid Addiction Vaccine a Reality?
Advancements in opioid addiction treatments and overdose prevention are still in development. One of the most recent innovations is an opioid addiction vaccine. This vaccine may be able to help people overcome the grip of opioids for good.
The vaccine has been in development since at least 2012. But it wasn’t until 2019 that the vaccine began to show promising results among users in test groups. One of the vaccine's lead researchers, Dr. Kim Janda, says that the vaccine is not designed to replace other forms of opioid addiction management. Instead, he says he wants the vaccine to work together with other medications such as naloxone.
A Government-Wide Attempt to Treat Addiction
The vaccine is by no means a small project. Filter Magazine revealed the National Institute of Health (NIH) has invested at least $24 million into research and development. This includes military-run organizations, major hospitals, and universities.
The opioid addiction vaccine is being targeted toward individuals who have relapsed or have been unable to quit using in the past. The vaccine would cause the brain to create antibodies that fight off the drug the same way it would a pathogen. However, many believe it should be focusing solely on psychological intervention.
Northern Arizona University researcher Naomi Lee, PhD, held an interview with a local radio station to explain how the vaccine would work. Lee said that it would essentially "trick" the body into seeing opioids as "foreign or bad molecules". If it succeeds, the vaccine would result in a person's physiological response to opioids. Rather than getting high, their body would fight the drug off to prevent addiction.
Greater Access for Everyone
According to a statement by the University of New Mexico's research team, the vaccine is designed to be a single-use injection. It is said to be affordable to produce and doesn't require refrigeration. Creating greater access to the vaccine in impoverished communities and developing countries is a strong focal point for the researchers. Due to the widespread nature of opioid addiction in the United States, it's crucial that the vaccine can be distributed easily.
Not a Cure-All
The most important thing to note about the vaccine is that even if it can block the body's reaction to opioids, it cannot "cure" addiction. Addiction at its core is predominantly a psychological problem. Mental health counseling, support groups, and rehab programs would still play the biggest roles in an individual’s recovery.
Substance use disorders do not simply resolve in the face of sobriety. A person with an addiction could even be tempted to try different drugs if the vaccine prevented them from abusing opioids. Ultimately, for the vaccine to be truly effective, it would need to be administered along with high-quality drug rehab programs.
While the availability of an opioid addiction vaccine remains just out of reach, there are steps that can be taken today to achieve sobriety. Rehabilitation facilities specializing in opioid and heroin addiction are prepared to help. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please contact Springboard Recovery professional today.