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Is an Anti-Opioid Abuse Vaccine on the Horizon?

It may sound like science fiction; however, as opioid abuse continues to ravage the United States, clinicians and stakeholders are working harder than ever to come up with solutions to the problem. To that end, researchers, backed by the Department of Health and Human Services, are apparently working on a one-shot vaccine to help patients overcome their abuse and addiction. The idea behind the initiative, which is still years away from being tested on humans, is to teach the body to react to the drug before it hits the brain and causes a high. The research is being spearheaded by the University of South Florida.

Even as we’re years away from any viable or marketable version of this type of medication, experts say that they should not be used for prevention against addiction. They also say that different vaccines would be required for each type of drug (cocaine, meth, heroin, opioid abuse, etc.). Other skeptics are wary of a vaccine because they say it ignores that root causes of addiction. Often times, substance abuse manifests out of a need to cope with an underlying mental health issue. Any vaccine or medication resource must still be accompanied by comprehensive behavioral rehab and counseling to be effective. There is currently a fundraiser to benefit the Scripps Research Institute called “Support Heroin Vaccine Research at the Scripps Research Institute.” So far, more than $32,000 of its $60,000 goal has been raised.

However distant a reality these vaccines may be, the drive behind them is to be commended. At a time when tens of thousands of Americans per year are dying from opioid abuse, it’s gratifying and encouraging to think that science is firing on all cylinders to address the epidemic. In the meantime, however, there are plenty of measures we can take at the treatment and prevention level to help rollback addiction in our homes and communities.


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