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Anti-addiction drugs face more than medical issues

By Docta, Jul 26, 2011 | | |
  1. Docta
    Anti-addiction drugs face more than medical issues

    16:15 25 July 2011 by Ferris Jabr

    Should drug addicts be vaccinated to help them recover? Some authorities, such as bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, have suggested coercing addicts into taking drugs like naltrexone, which curb the highs they crave.

    The recent death of singer Amy Winehouse, who had well-documented problems with drugs and alcohol, and the publication last week of research on a heroin vaccine and an anti-cocaine drug, have again raised the question.

    Kim Janda of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues have created a vaccine cocktail that consists of a heroin-like hapten – a molecule that provokes the immune system – bound to a carrier protein and mixed with alum, an adjuvant that further stimulates the immune system.

    The vaccine trains the immune system to swarm heroin molecules with antibodies, as though the drug were an invasive organism, thereby sequestering the drug in the bloodstream before it can reach the brain.

    Craving curbed

    Janda's team fitted rats with catheters that delivered a dose of heroin straight into the bloodstream whenever the rodents pushed a lever. All the unvaccinated rats pushed the heroin lever frequently and eagerly, whereas only three of the seven vaccinated rats dosed themselves like addicts (Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, DOI: 10.1021/jm200461m).

    Zheng-Xiong Xi of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, Maryland, and his colleagues studied mice that, like the rats, were implanted with a catheter that delivered cocaine when they pushed a lever. Xi gave the rodent addicts a drug that binds the CB-2 cannabinoid receptors in the brain, inhibiting dopamine activity and thereby blunting the cocaine high.

    Mice who received the anti-cocaine drug pushed the cocaine lever less frequently and did not scurry around as much as their high peers (Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 10.1038/nn.2874).

    Partial success

    If they were successfully adapted for people, both treatments would be very useful for addicts in therapy, to prevent slip-ups from becoming full-blown relapses. The vaccines against cocaine and nicotine that have been tested in clinical trials so far have failed to match the success of animal studies, only generating sufficient antibody levels in about one-third of the recipients.

    But researchers remain invested in anti-addiction vaccines because unlike pharmaceuticals that act on the central nervous system, vaccines should produce fewer side effects and longer-lasting benefits.

    One serious concern is that addicts will overdose in an attempt to overcome the blunting effect, or turn to other dangerous drugs. In one study, some cocaine addicts that received an experimental vaccine wound up with 10 times as much cocaine in their blood than usual in an attempt to get high. Such compensation is especially likely if the vaccine is implemented through legal coercion, which gives an addict the choice between jail or vaccine therapy.

    "Before any vaccine is put on the market we need to get these ethical considerations worked out," says Kathleen Kantak of Boston University. "It should always be the individual's choice to be immunised. The treatments will only be successful if the individual is motivated to quit, otherwise they will find ways to get around it."

    Wayne Hall at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, raises several ethical concerns about vaccines and pharmaceuticals aimed at addictive drugs. Although the antibodies that vaccines generate dwindle a few months after an injection, they never disappear completely. Potential employers could unfairly discriminate against past addicts if they detect such antibodies in a blood test.

    NewScientist 25,07,2011


  1. Wanderer
    I find this very disturbing.

    This is just one step away from removing personal freedom and control over one's own body and what they put in it. The ethical and moral issues touched upon in the article are just the tip of the iceberg.

    If government or anyone else can force vaccination on an individual, it means their DOC (drug of choice) is no longer an option. What about responsible individuals who use a substance, though illegal today, to free them from pain or suffering as a guaranteed right from the UN Bill of Human Rights? Wouldn't this also fall under a form of torture or coercion listed under the same document? What about the recent findings and report by the Cato Institute examining global drug policy and its failure?

    How would the pharmaceutical industry weigh in on this issue? Obviously, they would make fortunes manufacturing and distributing the "life saving" vaccines. All the while peddling their preferred pharmaceuticals, some of which are dangerous, with serious side-effects, but are allowed on the market anyway. Does this only allow for "approved treatment" with "approved treatment" and give Big Pharma carte blanche to do as it pleases, medicating the populous with their latest mind dulling concoction with full approval from governments along with the additional profits they would receive.

    Further, what if one of the miracle vaccines backfires and renders a vital and perhaps quite beneficial medication ineffective because one had the vaccine and the antibodies are not selective enough to bind to a minor alteration in the chemical compound of one "good" opiate versus a "bad" opiate. What if it's a wonder drug still yet to be discovered which can cure cancer or some other debilitating malady? This is actually a double edged sword for Big Pharma, and creates risk for them in this case.

    The recent article about the number of anti-psychotic drugs being prescribed for a whole host of reasons to perfectly otherwise normal people who just need to work a few things out is a canary falling silent in the coalmine of our society. Big Pharma, along with the blessings of FDA, DEA, and Law Enforcement is able to push their "medications" on society through their licensed dealers, the doctors who are given incentives from insurance companies or the pharmaceutical industry for prescribing the latest wonder drug which will cure society's ills by dulling their minds, deadening their creativity, and changing their cognitive processes. Also, please , no one need to try to defend the health care industry that they don't receive benefits either directly or indirectly from the pharmaceutical industry, not to mention the vast amount of money spent by Big Pharma influencing our elected officials to pass legislation in their favor, but never hold them responsible for the "accidents" in lost lives when something goes wrong with one of their "approved" products.

    On another level, this type of research seems too much like a magic bullet to the prohibitionists who the UN declared just recently that the "War on Drugs" was a complete and total monetary, societal, human rights violation on many levels. But the prohibitionists will just see this as one more weapon in their arms race against groups they would otherwise marginalize and oppress. This research and the reported successes could set rational drug policy back further from the small steps toward progress it's already made. It is a true "arms race" between free society and the prohibitionists. Right now we see it with the scheduling of one drug and in "whack-a-mole" fashion, another drug - potentially more harmful, is created to take that one's place. It is nothing more than what the Cold War taught us about MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). One side escalates, the other counters, it eventually spirals out of control so far that the economy can no longer sustain the race. This is what caused the fall of the Soviet Union. We are repeating the same pattern with the "War on Drugs" which is really a "War on the People." It is un-winnable and cannot be sustained as we burrow the global economies into further economic crisis.

    This research and it's "successes" should not be trumpeted as a success by any means. It's devicive, controlling, eliminates freedom and just allows the war to rage on into economic and social decline ever more.

    I don't want to sound to negative toward the researchers who are doing this. It's admirable what they have discovered. They are unlocking keys to human physiology at an ever advancing pace and making discoveries which may be applied in ways we cannot imagine right now. However, just like research done with the Manhattan Project, along with great power comes great responsibility.

    Are the governments of the world responsible enough to use this type of technology wisely? Will the arms race continue and drive us further into Orwell's vision of the future or are we already there?

    Be well...
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