Is the Heroin Vaccine a Safe, Viable Option for the Treatment of Addiction?

Scientists from Mexico’s National Institute of Psychiatry have been busily working towards a patent for a heroin vaccine. The researchers are reporting great results in mice and now are heading into trials in humans. The theory behind the vaccine is fairly simple to understand. It has been developed to work by blocking the receptors in the body that heroin attaches to, thus, rendering the drug ineffective. An addict can still shoot up, but they will get zero of the euphoric effect they are craving.

The media is reporting the vaccine as a potential cure-all for addiction, but will it actually stop substance abuse or just that of heroin? And what are the other possible negative ramifications of using the vaccine? Is the addiction considered “cured” when the underlying causes have not been dealt with? Before the research moves forward into real world application, there are many questions that need to be answered.

The Vaccine Might Render Pain Medications Useless Even When They Are Necessary

Some supporters of the vaccine would like to see it effective for a wide variety of narcotics simultaneously. However, at the same time, one of the worries about this technology is that it might work on unintended drugs. Heroin is an opiate, as are many of the stronger medications, such as morphine and OxyContin, used for severe pain either post-surgery or due to injury.

It is very possible the vaccine may cause prescription medications to be powerless even during times they need to be used in an appropriate manner. Will individuals be asked to choose between overcoming addiction and the effective use of prescription analgesics if they ever suffer from severe pain? This is a glitch that will need to be worked out before the vaccine hits the open market.

Critics Fear the Vaccine May Create an Inability to Experience Pleasure

The receptors that heroin affects are the same ones that were meant for the body’s own feel-good hormones, known as endorphins. Naturally endorphins are the prime mode by which humans experience pleasure in their lives. The major ways we cause a release of endorphins are through sex, exercise or laughter. This is why human beings find these experiences so pleasurable. So it might then be a frightening prospect that the heroin vaccine could possibly cause these activities to be void of any pleasure, just as it makes heroin without any exhilarating effect.

As you can see, there are some large unanswered questions that need to be figured out before a vaccine would be safe for an individual’s long-term physical and emotional well-being. What do you think about the idea of vaccines to fix addiction? Do you think someone’s addiction is cured if they have not analyzed what caused it in the first place? Let us know your thoughts below.