It may sound unbelievable, but the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 2.1 million adults used cocaine within a month of the survey. Also, Narconon drug rehab states that with the highest rates of abuse among stimulants in America, cocaine causes serious health problems for millions of people.
Heart problems, nervous system disruption and respiratory complications all occur due to frequent use of cocaine, warns the National Institutes of Health. Eventually, the damage from the drug or an unfortunate overdose can be fatal.
Cocaine dependence is challenging to treat due to the high addiction factor. Research by the Weill Cornell Medical College shows that a new solution to the problem could come in the form of a simply shot. A research team is developing a vaccine that could help cocaine users break their devastating habit. If it works, it will be the first drug treatment vaccine of its kind.
Combined in the vaccine are molecules similar to cocaine and components of the virus that causes colds. The body develops a natural resistance to the stimulating effects of the drug by blocking the chemicals from reaching the brain. Getting high is thus much harder than without the vaccine, causing cravings for cocaine to fall quickly.
Testing began with mice addicted to cocaine. Once vaccinated, these mice began producing the antibodies needed to fight off an infection.
The antibodies attacked the cocaine just as they normally stop viruses or bacteria. This interfered with the high that the drug produced. A single treatment stopped the stimulant from affecting the brains of the mice for up to 13 weeks at a time.
Using the vaccine to help humans will take more testing and adjustments. The vaccine alone will not be sufficient to cure an addiction. Human trials of the shot showed an increased risk for overdose as the subjects attempted to increase their cocaine intake to compensate. Any application of the vaccine will call for close supervision of the patient to prevent this problem.
Immune system variations also change how different bodies react. Finally, the vaccine only blocks the effects of cocaine. Therapy and other forms of treatment such as the Narconon program are still necessary to help deal with the underlying psychological problems that lead to addiction.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse approved testing of the cocaine vaccine on humans in 2009. In the trial, 38% of patients who received the vaccine lowered their cocaine habit. Doctors administered placebos to a control group to ensure that the drug was causing a material change in the treatment group. Blood tests monitored drug use and antibody levels.
The researchers found a direct correlation between low levels of cocaine intake and high antibody counts. Unfortunately, none of the participants became totally free of the stimulant, and quite a few patients produced no cocaine targeting antibodies during testing. The therapy included in the program also makes determining the exact benefits of the vaccine more difficult.
This new cocaine vaccine will require years of additional testing before it becomes available. Meanwhile, people suffering from cocaine addiction today can still get help through a variety of proven rehabilitation programs.
Residential programs like Narconon drug rehabilitation keep patients away from their source of stimulants like cocaine and offer continuous care for the painful symptoms of withdrawal.