Can an Opiate Vaccine Curb Addiction?

The National Institutes of Health granted the University of Montana’s Center for Translational Medicine $3.3 million on July 9 to develop a vaccine to combat opioid addiction, according to a report by Montana television station KULR 8.

How Will it Work?

The vaccine’s desired effect is to introduce antibodies that will prevent fentanyl from crossing the user’s “blood/brain barrier,” essentially keeping them from getting high. Drug toxins would then leave the body naturally through excretion. By removing the drug’s desired effect, the vaccine is supposed to prevent user cravings and therefore relapses and overdoses.

“They’ll have no positive response from the drugs so it helps them quit. The relapse won’t happen,” Dr. Jay Evans, the Director for the Center of Translational Medicine said in the report. Evans’ plan is to begin clinical trials on people within five years.

abs across the country receive grants worth millions to develop a vaccine to combat the effect of opiates.

A Growing Demand for Opiate Vaccines

UM is not the first institution to develop a vaccine that counteracts the effect of opioids. In the Spring, scientists at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California published a study that claims a vaccine they developed decreased drug taking behavior in rats for months at a time. Before taking the vaccine, rats were given the choice of taking a dose of opiates or having food. According to the study, the rats began choosing food more frequently after receiving the vaccine. It also listed as a benefit, that the vaccine has long-lasting effects, unlike a medication that would need to be taken daily.

While vaccines could be beneficial in decreasing the ever-growing death-count caused by the opioid epidemic, it is important to remember they are still in the early stages of development. Provided they are released in upcoming years, scientists describe them as an adjunct approach to comprehensive opioid addiction treatment; a far cry from a cure for opioid addiction.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use disorder, seeking a safe place to detox and explore short-term and long-term treatment is still the best course of action. Learn more about Amatus Health’s Levels of Care and how they can support your recovery.