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Vaccine could combat cocaine addiction

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 Vaccine could combat cocaine addiction

A vaccine has been found that can be used to help people combat their cocaine addiction. Research has shown that the active ingredient in the vaccine is able to deactivate cocaine before the drug enters the brain.

The vaccine has been trialled in America where around 40 per cent of the volunteers were able to stop taking cocaine or reduce their consumption of cocaine for two months after taking the jab.

The study lasted for 24-weeks and involved 115 cocaine-dependant addicts. Fifty-eight participants were administered five vaccination jabs over a three month period, whereas the remaining 57 participants were given a placebo injection.

Random urine tests were carried out on the participants. Fifty-five participants completed the course of the active ingredient, which contains immune system antibodies, of which 38% attained high enough blood antibody levels to combat cocaine dependency.

Urine tests carried out between weeks nine and 16 revealed that nearly half (45%) had managed to stop taking cocaine all together, compared to 35% of those given the placebo jab.

The number of participants that were able to reduce their cocaine consumption by half was significantly greater amongst the group administered with the active ingredient. Over half of the participants with high antibody levels fell into this category but only 23% of the placebo group.

The side effects from taking the vaccine were mild to moderate, the most frequent being hardening and tenderness of the skin at the injection site. No serious adverse events, withdrawals or deaths occurred.

The study, led by Dr Bridget Martell, from the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, is reported in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

The scientists that conducted the study revealed that a number of vaccine treatments would be needed to break a dependence on cocaine because of the short amount of time the anti-cocaine antibodies remained in the blood.

The authors of the study wrote: ”Optimal treatment will likely require repeated booster vaccinations to maintain appropriate antibody levels. Furthermore, efforts will be needed to retain subjects during the initial series of injections since antibody levels increased slowly over the first three months when patients were immunised according to the protocol used in these studies.

”Other treatments need to be used during this early treatment period to encourage abstinence. As an example, to retain subjects in this study during the initial slow increase in antibody responses, we enlisted cocaine-dependent subjects who were enrolled in a methadone maintenance programme.”

They added: ”The goals for future vaccine development will be to increase the proportion of subjects who can attain the desired antibody levels and to extend these periods of abstinence through long-term maintenance of these adequate antibody levels. We look forward to extending our promising findings in a broader population of cocaine abusers as we also reach for these future vaccine development goals.”

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