A New Vaccine In the Works to “Cure” Heroin Addiction

Vaccine from heroin addiction.

The newest item to hit the news boards on the opiate epidemic our country is stifled with is a new, prototype vaccine, a vaccine that will supposedly cure people who are addicted to heroin. As one can imagine, this is a highly controversial topic, especially considering the fact that the vaccination issue is already controversial enough as it is. Now we are considering a vaccine to prevent opioid dependence? Let’s take a look at this.

The Scripps Research Institute is currently performing a study and exploration project to determine if opioid addiction can be cured with vaccination technology. We can certainly cure a lot of terrible diseases with vaccines, why not heroin addiction? And what about opioid pain pill dependence? Can we vaccinate addicts and cure them too? That is certainly the thought process at the Scripps Research Institute. According to chairman George Koob:

“Heroin-addicted rats deprived of the drug will normally resume using it compulsively if they regain access, but our vaccine stops this from happening.”

“Heroin-addicted rats deprived of the drug will normally resume using it compulsively if they regain access, but our vaccine stops this from happening.”

Vaccine from heroin.

According to Scripps Institute study author, Joel Schlosburg:

“We gave the vaccine to rats that had already been exposed to heroin, a situation obviously relevant to a human clinical situation. It doesn’t affect the opioid system per se, so in principle, you could give this vaccine to heroin-dependent people and continue to treat them with standard therapies, too. Opioid painkillers such as codeine or oxycodone also would continue to work.”

We see from Schlosberg’s commentary on the clinical trials that the vaccine does not intend to fully remove addiction, only to stymy euphoria and pain relief from heroin. Essentially, the vaccine only intends to set a person up for a more medical, “legal” approach to pain relief, i.e. with suboxone, methadone, oxycodone, or codeine. This is not a suitable or satisfactory approach to removing heroin addiction, as it simply trades one chemical dependency for another.

What the Research has Shown so Far

According to research documentation, the “vaccine-in-progress” is designed to target heroin specifically, aiming to address heroin’s psychoactive breakdown in the bloodstream of the user, stopping the effects of heroin at that point. The vaccine essentially sets up a chemical wall around the brain, preventing heroin chemicals from reaching opioid receptors in the brain.

The vaccine does not stop the heroin chemicals from having an adverse effect on all of the other organs in the body, but the idea is that, if an addict is not able to get “high” off of heroin, he or she will discontinue taking it.

Many Flaws in “Vaccine Solutions” to Addiction

Of course, it does not take a genius to see the flaws in this plan. Even if heroin addicts are vaccinated and no longer get “high,” even if that is accomplished, those addicts will still experience terrible withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking heroin. They will likely keep taking heroin or some other opiate just to avoid withdrawals unless they receive some form of help for their withdrawal symptoms.

The flaw in this vaccine concept (a vaccine prototype so new it has not even been tested on humans yet) is that it never addresses the mental and spiritual sides of heroin addiction. There are many facets and complicated sectors of a heroin habit, intricacies, and difficulties that no one is capable of addressing with only a “medication replacement therapy” approach. Addicts need real help through rehabilitation, full detoxification services, and a bevy of therapeutic and mental, spiritual assistance. That is the only way to give addicts a fighting chance at a relapse-free existence.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.