While scientists have historically focused their vaccination efforts on diseases — with great success — they are now at work on shots that could one day release people from the grip of substance abuse, says the New York Times. “We view this as an alternative or better way for some people,” said Dr. Kim D. Janda, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute. Unlike preventive vaccines, this type of injection would be administered after someone had already succumbed to an addictive drug.
For instance, cocaine addicts who had been vaccinated with one of Dr. Janda's formulations before they snorted cocaine reported feeling like they'd used “dirty coke,” he said. “They felt like they were wasting their money.” It's a novel use for vaccines that has placed Dr. Janda, 54, in the vanguard of addiction treatment. Because addiction is now thought to cause physical changes in the brain, doctors increasingly advocate medical solutions to America's drug problem, leading to renewed interest in his work. “It's very fashionable now,” said Dr. Janda, “When we started doing this 27 years ago, it wasn't.” In July, Dr. Janda's lab — 25 researchers, most of graduate-school age — made headlines when it announced that it had produced a vaccine that blunted the effects of heroin in rats. Rodents given the vaccine didn't experience the pain-deadening effects of heroin and stopped helping themselves to the drug, presumably because it ceased to have any effect.