Vaccine That Blocks the High From Heroin is Making Progress

A vaccine developed at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) to block the high of heroin has proven effective in non-human primates. This is the first vaccine against an opioid to pass this stage of preclinical testing.

“This validates our previous rodent data and positions our vaccine in a favorable light for anticipated clinical evaluation,” said study leader Kim Janda, the Ely R. Callaway Jr. Professor of Chemistry and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI.

The vaccine works by exposing the immune system to a part of the heroin molecule’s telltale structure. This teaches the immune system to produce antibodies against heroin and its psychoactive products. The antibodies neutralize heroin molecules, blocking them from reaching the brain to cause a feeling of euphoria.

Researchers believe that blocking the high of heroin will help eliminate the motivation for many recovering addicts to relapse into drug use. In recent years, public health officials around the world have labeled heroin use as an epidemic.

The Janda Laboratory at TSRI has been working on their heroin vaccine for over eight years; the researchers had previously tested vaccine candidates under laboratory conditions and in rodents, where the strategy proved effective for neutralizing heroin.

For the new study in rhesus monkeys, the researchers redesigned their vaccine candidate to more closely resemble heroin, with the goal of better stimulating the immune system to attack this opioid.

The researchers found that the four primates that were given three doses of this vaccine showed an effective immune response and could neutralize varying doses of heroin. This effect was most acute in the first month after vaccination but lasted for over eight months. The researchers also found no negative side effects from the vaccine.

“We believe this vaccine candidate will prove safe for human trials,” Janda said. He pointed out that the components of the vaccine have either already been approved by the FDA or have passed safety tests in previous clinical trials.

Related posts: USA Health Care Crisis, Opioid AbuseSad Story Illustrates the Opioid Overdose Epidemic in the USAVermont to Treat Heroin Abuse as Health Issue Instead of Fighting “War” Against AddictsThe Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman Highlights the Increased Use of Heroin

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Creating Conditions That Reduce the Likelihood That Teenagers Will Abuse Drugs

Treating people with drug and alcohol addition is very difficult. Preventing many of them from becoming addicted in the first place is a good way to avoid many of the problems caused by drug and alcohol addition.

Iceland knows how to stop teen substance abuse but the rest of the world isn’t listening

In Iceland, teenage smoking, drinking and drug use have been radically cut in the past 20 years.

“We didn’t say to them, you’re coming in for treatment. We said, we’ll teach you anything you want to learn: music, dance, hip hop, art, martial arts.” The idea was that these different classes could provide a variety of alterations in the kids’ brain chemistry, and give them what they needed to cope better with life: some might crave an experience that could help reduce anxiety, others may be after a rush.

At the same time, the recruits got life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. “The main principle was that drug education doesn’t work because nobody pays attention to it. What is needed are the life skills to act on that information,” Milkman says. Kids were told it was a three-month programme. Some stayed five years.

A few factors emerged as strongly protective: participation in organised activities – especially sport – three or four times a week, total time spent with parents during the week, feeling cared about at school, and not being outdoors in the late evenings.

Elsewhere, cities that have joined Youth in Europe are reporting other benefits. In Bucharest, for example, the rate of teen suicides is dropping alongside use of drink and drugs. In Kaunas, the number of children committing crimes dropped by a third between 2014 and 2015.

The solutions Iceland experimented with can’t be copied directly for elsewhere, cultures are different. But many of the concepts and practices can be adopted elsewhere. The idea of investing in helping teenagers live happy, engaged lives instead of locking up teenagers acting out is something we would all benefit from.

Related: The Causes of Drug Addiction are ComplexThe War on Drugs has been a Huge Failure with Massive Unintended ConsequencesFunding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused PolicyAlmost everything we think we know about addiction is wrong

Cocaine addiction: Scientists discover ‘back door’ into the brain

Individuals addicted to cocaine may have difficulty in controlling their addiction because of a previously-unknown ‘back door’ into the brain, circumventing their self-control, suggests a new study led by the University of Cambridge.

A second study from the team suggests that a drug used to treat paracetamol overdose may be able to help individuals who want to break their addiction and stop their damaging cocaine seeking habits.

Although both studies were carried out in rats, the researchers believe the findings will be relevant to humans.

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that can lead to addiction when taken repeatedly. Quitting can be extremely difficult for some people: around four in ten individuals who relapse report having experienced a craving for the drug – however, this means that six out of ten people have relapsed for reasons other than ‘needing’ the drug.

“Most people who use cocaine do so initially in search of a hedonic ‘high’,” explains Dr David Belin from the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge. “In some individuals, though, frequent use leads to addiction, where use of the drug is no longer voluntary, but ultimately becomes a compulsion. We wanted to understand why this should be the case.”

Drug-taking causes a release in the brain of the chemical dopamine, which helps provide the ‘high’ experienced by the user. Initially the drug taking is volitional – in other words, it is the individual’s choice to take the drug – but over time, this becomes habitual, beyond their control.

Previous research by Professor Barry Everitt from the Department of Psychology at Cambridge showed that when rats were allowed to self-administer cocaine, dopamine-related activity occurred initially in an area of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, which plays a significant role driving ‘goal-directed’ behaviour, as the rats sought out the drug. However, if the rats were given cocaine over an extended period, this activity transferred to the dorsolateral striatum, which plays an important role in habitual behaviour, suggesting that the rats were no longer in control, but rather were responding automatically, having developed a drug-taking habit.

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Funding Drug Addiction Treatment Would Cost 1/7 the Cost of the Current Criminal System Focused Policy

Treatment: Effective (But Unpopular) Weapon Against Drugs

Paying for treatment of hard-core drug users is a bone in the throat of middle class taxpayers–and small wonder. Drug abusers are not an appealing group, and the programs themselves largely fail to wean their clients off drugs for good. Nonetheless, say RAND researchers, treatment programs are a sound investment of public funds because they effectively cut consumption–and consumption is what drives the drug trade.

RAND corporation aims to provide policy guidance, driven by data and research, to policy makers. They differ from many others in that they pay more attention to what works than to the interest groups often telling politicians what to do. RAND is willing to take stands that others are not and often propose policies that conflict with the accepted positions held to for decades by interest groups.

When data supports a policy RAND will encourage the use of that policy even if it seems odd – like paying for drug treatment for those breaking the law. Without treatment RAND data shows the government will spend 7 times as much money. But politicians have been resisting spending 1/7 as much money because they fear voters can’t understand that doing so is wise. This is from a 1995 report by RAND:

Treatment is seven times more cost-effective in reducing cocaine consumption than the best supply-control program and could cut consumption by a third if it were extended to all heavy users, according to the study. Such a strategy could also substantially reduce the number of users and the costs they inflict on society through crime and lost productivity.

And RAND doesn’t even factor in the costs of wasted lives, pain and suffering that are aided by good addition treatment help. Some propose we aid drug users with treatment programs because human suffering is something we should reduce when we can. RAND proposes we do so based solely on the hard cash benefits government will gain. It is hard to argue with a program that reduces costs by 86% (6/7).

While we may have made a little progress has been made in getting more funding since 1995, if we have it is a tiny portion of what would be a wise investment. The failure to use addiction treatment progress continues to add to the budget deficits our governments face and the suffering of drug abusers in our society.

Related: Drug Treatment Funding Can More Than Pay For Itself With Reduced Crime CostsImproving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin MadisonWhat Should Society Do About Drug Addicts That Are Not Seeking Treatment?

The Success Rate of AA is Only 5-10%

The treatment of drug addiction continues to be difficult. Even finding data on success rates is hard. And analyzing that data is difficult (the data is not straight forward and leaves open many possible questions or criticisms). This study calls into question the effectiveness of a 12-step recovery method to treat addiction.

With Sobering Science, Doctor Debunks 12-Step Recovery

There is a large body of evidence now looking at AA success rate, and the success rate of AA is between 5 and 10 percent. Most people don’t seem to know that because it’s not widely publicized. … There are some studies that have claimed to show scientifically that AA is useful. These studies are riddled with scientific errors and they say no more than what we knew to begin with, which is that AA has probably the worst success rate in all of medicine.

It’s not only that AA has a 5 to 10 percent success rate; if it was successful and was neutral the rest of the time, we’d say OK. But it’s harmful to the 90 percent who don’t do well. And it’s harmful for several important reasons. One of them is that everyone believes that AA is the right treatment. AA is never wrong, according to AA. If you fail in AA, it’s you that’s failed.

The reason that the 5 to 10 percent do well in AA actually doesn’t have to do with the 12 steps themselves, it has to do with the camaraderie. It’s a supportive organization with people who are on the whole kind to you and it gives you a structure. Some people can make a lot of use of that. And to its credit, AA describes itself as a brotherhood, rather than a treatment.

image of the Sober Truth book cover

Dr. Lance Dodes has written a book looking at the data behind the results of AA. The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry.

Related: Looking at the Evidence of Treating AlcoholismHow Effective is Drug Addiction Treatment?, NIH studyImproving Addiction Treatment with The University of Wisconsin, MadisonMethods Used to Treat Addiction

UK Drug Policy Commission Recommends Decriminalizing Drug Use

Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study

A six-year study of Britain’s drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.

The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.

The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.

Abusive drug use should be a medical matter not a criminal one. The appropriate treatment options to provide people the change to regain their lives is what is needed; we don’t need to throw them in jail. Use the money saved from wasting people’s lives in jail and all the costs associated with that to help provide better drug abuse treatment options.

Related: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug AddictsStudy: Drug Treatment Success Rates in EnglandRussell Brand’s Testimony on Dealing with Drug AddictionPrinciples of Effective Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation