Research from Narconon has found that according to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 2.1 million Americans had used cocaine within the previous month. Cocaine is the most abused stimulant in the US. The National Institutes of Health list the most common problems stemming from cocaine abuse as: heart problems, respiratory failure, nervous system difficulties and digestive problems. Any of these can be fatal.
Due to its highly addictive nature, cocaine is a difficult dependency to treat with traditional methods. Fortunately, studies done at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City demonstrate that there may be hope on the horizon. The first-ever anti-cocaine vaccine, while still in early development, holds promise to help augment, or even replace, treatment for cocaine addiction in the future. The substance combines molecules resembling cocaine with part of the common cold virus, turning the immune system into a partner in the battle against cocaine addiction. The vaccine, called TA-CD, prevents the “buzz” feeling from reaching reward centers of the brain, destroying the basis of craving. Addicts no longer get high, and using the drug theoretically loses appeal.
Initial studies studied the vaccine in mice. Their systems produced antibodies to cocaine, teaching the immune system to see cocaine as an invader like any other. Mice receiving this vaccine showed reduced symptoms of a cocaine high, demonstrating inoculation against the drug. The initial trials showed that one treatment remained effective for approximately 13 weeks.
Working with human populations is more complicated. Even an effective vaccine is not a cure for addiction. Addicts could try to – and did, in human trials — increase their usage to overcome the vaccine’s blocking capabilities, leading to overdose. Also, human immune systems vary, so every system responds differently to TA-CD. Most importantly, just because the high of the drug of choice is decreased doesn’t mean that the underlying psychology of addictive behavior is eliminated, leaving the door open for continued problems.
In 2009, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supported human placebo-controlled trials using TA-CD, and found a substantial reduction in cocaine use in 38 percent of vaccinated patients. 115 patients from a methadone program took part in the study over a 3-month period. Participants also took part in therapy and monitoring for drug use. Patients with the highest antibody levels had the lowest cocaine use. However, researchers report that no one maintained complete abstinence during the study, and some produced no antibodies at all. Others had antibodies that remained fully active up to ten weeks after inoculation.
Margaret Haney of Columbia University Medical Center, author of another study, believes the best promise of the vaccine would be for use by motivated addicts in treatment. It could protect them from full relapse because if they did slip and use cocaine, they wouldn’t get the desired high and would find it easier to recover.
While TA-CD shows promise for the future, there are proven rehabilitation options for cocaine addiction available today. Traditional treatment such as Narcotics Anonymous and other outpatient rehab programs exist, as well as inpatient treatment, which is the most effective in the earliest phases of abstaining from cocaine. Narconon cocaine treatment, for example, uses a step program based in a residential facility, allowing addicts to focus exclusively on their recovery. With Narconon Drug Rehab Centers, addicts receive nutritional supplements, supported withdrawal, detoxification, exercise, therapy, and life skills training, along with assistance in repairing damaged relationships and developing a new, drug-free life.