As heroin and other drugs continue to see an increase in rates of addiction, overdoses and related fatalities, medical researchers and psychologists scramble to find solutions to the what is deemed by many states and the federal government as a public health crisis. Researchers at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse will participate in a study involving an experimental ‘vaccine’ that attempts to block the addictive properties of heroin in users.

The project, which is part of an initial 3.7 million of a 7 million dollar plan to be undertaken by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research involves a vaccine developed the institute’s HIV Research Program in association with the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Maryland. The group already made headlines in 2017 when the former US Health and Human Services secretary mentioned the institute’s efforts already underway in a public statement addressing the nation’s growing addiction problem. They are just one, however, of several groups investigating the plausibility of using vaccines to help heroin addicts get healthy. Scripps Research Institute of California’s program into a heroin vaccine is nearing human trials and the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation is participating in their own research into a vaccine.

Dr. Stephen J. Thomas of the Walter Reed institute and project coordinator, explains that “the vaccine replicates the active metabolite of the heroin, attached with other materials, making the body develop antibodies against it. This, in turn tricks the body into rejecting heroin when it’s used next, preventing it from having psychoactive effects.” If the United States Food and Drug Administration approves the vaccine testing trials, testing could begin as early as this year.

Discovery Institute

For most drugs and vaccines, testing can take between 2 and 10 years, but considering the country’s focus on the opioid crisis which has links directly to heroin usage, which is an opiate or natural version of an opioid which is synthetic, it could see more attention and effort to get approval more quickly in order to get it into hospitals and rehabs. Similar kinds of prevention drugs are in development for other addictive substances which add to the nation’s growing overdose rates. This year also saw an experimental drug which interrupts the dopamine stimulation in mice when given cocaine. Dopamine is acknowledged as a primary component within the brain which induces addictive behaviors to both controlled substances and non-controlled substances or habits such as social-media addictions as well, and the primary reason addiction is medical condition under the category of ‘chronic illness’. Dopamine issues are also related to other severe diseases like Parkinson’s.

Currently, hospitals have been receiving extra funding for maintaining a supply of heroin overdose prevention drugs like naloxone, which do provide promise that an effective vaccine is possible. While these new drugs will not surface for a while, it’s still important for addicts to seek help at rehab facilities.

Top rated drug rehab centers in New Jersey include detox, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and promote sober living in NJ. The Discovery Institute (844-478-6563) offers many treatment options for those suffering from substance use disorder.


Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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