I find this absolutely fascinating, from a scientific point of view.  The social ramifications are far-reaching, but the science behind it is gold.

Drug abusers could quickly have a ‘remedy’ for their unhealthy addiction: scientists have actually successfully created a vaccine that completely prevents cocaine particles from reaching the brain and causing feelings of ecstasy, consequently assisting individuals in breaking their drug addiction.

“The vaccine consumes the cocaine in the blood like a little Pac-Man before it has a chance to reach the brain,” Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, the lead investigator of the Weill Cornell Medical College study said in a news release.

“We believe this approach is a win-win for those individuals, among the estimated 1.4 million cocaine individuals in the United States, who are dedicated to breaking their dependency to the medicine,” he further stated. “Even if an individual who gets the vaccine falls off the wagon, drug will have no affect on them.”

Cornell researchers have actually efficiently given the vaccine to non-human primates and are now much closer to launching human clinical trials. Human testing is anticipated to start within a year, Dr. Crystal thinks.  Many feel this would be a major breakthrough in immunology.

Cocaine blocks the recycling of dopamine– a neurotransmitter that is responsible for sensations of satisfaction. The medicine avoids the reuptake of dopamine by the neuron that launches it, triggering greater concentrations of dopamine to continue to be in the synapse and create a ‘high’.

“You get this massive flooding of dopamine which is the feel excellent part of the drug high,” Dr. Crystal said.

The new vaccine avoids dopamine buildup at the brain’s nerve endings. The vaccine consists of particles of the common cold virus and particles that resemble the structure of drug. Once the body receives an injection, it acknowledges the cold virus and creates an immune feedback against both the cold and the drug ‘impersonator’.

“The immune system learns to see cocaine as a burglar,” Dr. Crystals stated.

In order to feel the high that cocaine users seek, at least 47 percent of the dopamine transporter has to be occupied by cocaine. The Cornell analysts found that in immunized primates, cocaine occupied less than 20 percent of dopamine receptors– making it difficult for the animals to be impacted by the drug.

Analysts anticipate that the vaccine will work in people, however do not know how frequently it needs to be administered to preserve its impact. The vaccine remained to work efficiently for 13 weeks in mice and 7 weeks in primates.

“An anti-cocaine vaccination will need booster shots in human beings, however we don’t know yet how often these booster shots will be required,” Dr. Crystal said. “I believe that for those people who desperately wish to break their dependency, a series of vaccinations will assist.”.