Vaccine May Help Drug Addicts Kick the Habit

Researchers may be on the verge of helping drug addicts kick the habit for good.

In a study, published in the current online version of Molecular Therapy, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York have produced a safe vaccine that combines bits of the common cold virus with a particle that mimics cocaine.

"Our very dramatic data shows that we can protect mice against the effects of cocaine, and we think this approach could be very promising in fighting addiction in humans," the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a news release.

The vaccine, which lasted for at least 13 weeks, works by preventing cocaine molecules from reaching the brain of the mice, which in turn prevented any cocaine-related activity, according to Crystal.

"While other attempts at producing immunity against cocaine have been tried, this is the first that will likely not require multiple, expensive infusions, and that can move quickly into human trials," Crystal said. "There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for any drug addiction."

Researchers feel so good about the results, they hope the vaccine will also be helpful in treating people addicted to nicotine and heroin.

Crystal said the vaccine still needs to be tested in humans, but he predicts that it if it’s successful, it will work best in people already addicted to cocaine who want to get clean.

"The vaccine may help them kick the habit because if they use cocaine, an immune response will destroy the drug before it reaches the brain's pleasure center," he said.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.