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Biotech Science

Cocaine Vaccine In the Works 724

martyros writes "Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine are performing clinical trials of a vaccine that teaches the immune system to attack cocaine, preventing it from giving a high. The vaccine is made by attaching inactivated cocaine molecules to the outside of inactivated cholera proteins. When the immune system attacks the cholera proteins, it also 'learns' the cocaine molecules as well. The result is that the immune system 'recognizes the potent naked drug when it's ingested. The antibodies bind to the cocaine and prevent it from reaching the brain, where it normally would generate the highs that are so addictive.'" An earlier story from The Star notes that human trials for vaccines against both cocaine and nicotine are well under way.
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Cocaine Vaccine In the Works

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  • Analogs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Harmonious Botch ( 921977 ) * on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:17PM (#21896590) Homepage Journal
    I hope this wundervacine will not attach to some of the body's natural painkillers.
    • Re:Analogs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:28PM (#21896842)
      Is it cocaine specific or does it effect response to a whole class of alkaloids? I would truely hate to be in the dentist chair with drill ready only to find, rather quickly, how well this vacine potentially could work.
      • Re:Analogs (Score:5, Informative)

        by Masaq ( 732641 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:04PM (#21897542)
        Happily (and thankfully) we don't use a lot of pharmacologically similar compounds in medicine (or dentistry) these days. Even the medical/dental use of cocaine is rather rare these days as safer medications, or combinations of medications, can be used for similar effects. Despite their similar names, most of the "local anesthetics" that one would use in the dentist's chair (lidocaine, benzocaine, etc) have quite different chemical structure than cocaine. Cocaine has effect on both sodium channels (blocking depolarization and nerve conduction thus providing local anesthesia) as well as dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake (more responsible for its CNS effects). Lidocaine and related compounds only block fast sodium channels. Thus, it's unlikely that this vaccine is going to cause serious dental pain problems.
        • Re:Analogs (Score:5, Informative)

          by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:12PM (#21898806)
          I can attest to the efficacy of cocaine in toothache; At one time I was suffering "adverse economic determinism" -I was flat broke out of work. At that time I ended up with the mother of all toothaches. Pain on the transcendental level.
              I also did not have a health plan, dental plan, funny card, HMO, fill out this form, do not loose your #2 pencil, and all the other facets of modern medicine.

            I do not use drugs, am not interested at all in recreational drugs. A friend of that time though was, and sold me some cocaine. I placed it directly on the tooth and BLESSED RELIEF! It worked absolutely better then the over the counter nostrums. I do not know what experience users enjoy, but, that day, I enjoyed lucid thought free of pain and that made the experience well worthwhile. Incidentally, the street purchase price of that drug was far far less then it would cost to see a doctor, get a 'script, then buy the script without the above paperwork goodness. also whatever the Doc said to use probably would have been about as effective as the nostrums.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by flu1d ( 664635 )
      Many of the anesthetics found in hospitals today are based on cocaine now (also opiates and I'm sure they're working on that too), if given this 'vaccine' you'd better not have any kind of an accident.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Znork ( 31774 )
        "you'd better not have any kind of an accident."

        Ah, dont worry, muscle relaxants will still work. Rather like lethal injection, except you get to live to tell the story.
      • Re:Analogs (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:53PM (#21897346)
        I'm not sure the local anesthetic effects of cocaine or procaine (which is actually more potent in that respect, but has more potential for allergic reactions in sensitive areas which is why cocaine is sometimes used) would be significantly countered by the vaccine. Local anesthetics act directly on the nerves, very quickly on application at the site. It takes significant time for an immune system response.

        But IANAD :-)
  • by unchiujar ( 1030510 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:17PM (#21896598)
    Would you vaccinate your child ?
    • by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:21PM (#21896670) Journal
      Ofcourse I won't. I wouldn't deny them the wonderful experience of highly addicting and dangerous drugs.
      • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:57PM (#21897414) Homepage Journal
        I agree that this sounds like a great thing, though I hope they don't follow this line of reasoning too far. It shouldn't be something for the parents to decide, otherwise you may get parents that decide they don't want their children to experience any kind of rush when doing dangerous sports, or decide that they block some naturally occurring highs because they don't want little eating lots of sweets, or getting knocked up. That's when the world starts to get creepy!
    • by jackharrer ( 972403 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:22PM (#21896692)
      No, but happily my CEO.
    • by kieran ( 20691 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:23PM (#21896708)
      Would you vaccinate your child ?

      Or your employees? Or your signed artists?
    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:28PM (#21896822)
      I would if I caught her doing cocaine.
    • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:31PM (#21896882)

      Would you vaccinate your child ?

      I doubt it would matter much. There's a lot of evidence that drug abusers will simply switch drugs when their drug of choice becomes unavailable.

      It's a real comfort to know that meth, oxy and alcohol abuse will still be available to our children after we save them from the scourge of cocaine.
      • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:49PM (#21897260) Journal
        There's a lot of evidence that drug abusers will simply switch drugs when their drug of choice becomes unavailable.

        Really? Link please. According to the second TFA [thestar.com] listed, that has not been the case:

        One of the concerns with a cocaine vaccine is that once inoculated against a cocaine high, determined users will seek other drugs. But Haney's subjects did not do that.

        "On the outside, they were using less cocaine. They just stopped. None of them switched to another drug of abuse."
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I don't have a link, but I do have a cite, sort of. My mother ran a halfway house program in Oregon for 10 years or so, providing treatment to cocaine and other hard drug abusers. The facility was in a small town in Eastern Oregon, a long way from most of the users supply lines. When people fell out of the program, as they often did, they would trot down to the Safeway, steal a gallon of wine, and get drunk. It was accepted wisdom in the clinic that abusers had a drug of choice, and would substitute if
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )
      Oh come on, can't you think of anything more controversial and inflamatory than that? Everyone caught using cocaine will be required to take this! And it's just the beginning! Soon EVERYTHING that feels good will have a vaccine! No more mary jane! And we will all be required to take it!! The end of SEX! The government is ruining everything!! PRIVACY is threatened!! All is lost!!! GLOBAL WARMING!!!! WHO IS THINKING OF THE CHILDREN?????????????
    • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:54PM (#21897354)
      You'll be getting the vaccination yourself as soon as your car and life insurance carrier requires you to submit to it or face double the fees. And once your employer demands it for employment. And once it's required for citizenship. And once you are placed on a "cause for suspicion" list simply for not being vaccinated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by damburger ( 981828 )
      I can easily picture that many of the parents in favour of vaccinating their children against cocaine would happily feed them Ritalin if they misbehaved, which does pretty much the same damn thing.
  • Great idea! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Funkcikle ( 630170 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:19PM (#21896646)
    Injecting yourself with "inactive" cocaine AND cholera! What could possibly go wrong?

    I'd like some anti-freeze to drink afterwards, please.

  • Next Up on the party's list: The Orgasm.
    • Homer: Beer...The cause of, and solution to all of life's problems.
    • Re:Oblig Orwell (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionar ... m ['oo.' in gap]> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:25PM (#21896758) Journal
      The orgasm releases neurotransmitters that are similar to cocaine. Perhaps those vaccinated against cocaine would never have orgasms, or reduced orgasms. In fact, dopamine is critical for a lot of enjoyment. Maybe this will spawn a 'deadheading' procedure. Piss off the wrong person or government and you will never enjoy anything ever again. You wouldn't even want revenge, there would be no joy in it.

      On the other hand, a sperm vaccine would be a nice alternative to having your tubes tied. Of course, there's the nightmare scenario where this treatment latches onto a live bit of cholera or whatever and spreads, neutering all humans.
      • Choleraspermbot: Hey baby, wanna neuter all humans?
      • Re:Oblig Orwell (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:43PM (#21897134) Homepage Journal
        From what I understand though, the immune system is locked out of the brain proper thanks to the blood brain barrier, so this drug shouldn't have any effect on naturally occurring opiates. My high school anatomy class never got into where the opiates are generated when someone has an orgasm (that would have made it far too interesting) but I'm guessing it's in the brain directly and not in the sex organs (where they would have to filter through the bloodstream before getting to the brain). Given how orgasms tend to be immediately gratifying, I'm guessing the production is local.
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:21PM (#21896668)
    ZOMG I'msoexcitedtohearaboutthis I'vebeenwaiting suchalongtimeforsomething tohelpmekickthiscrazycravingand theallnightravingand theallnightdancingandtheclubs withthecrappytechnomusic ZOMGisthatablacksquirrel whenisOprahcomingonmyheartispounding wherecanIbugythisvaccine!
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:21PM (#21896682) Homepage Journal
    How would this work as an alternative to drug testing? If the vaccines for various drugs were easily obtained (say, 10 years from now), then could potential employers, private schools, and such require the vaccines instead of requiring testing as they do now? Would this be better or worse?
    • In the US, I don't think your employer can legally make you take any drug as a condition of employment.
    • An interesting idea, but if you were able to produce a vaccine that would nullify the effects of the majority of drugs that are abused, you're likely to wipe out the effectiveness of many commonly prescribed painkillers in the process. Take Vicodin for example. It's known to be abused and mildly addictive. Now although the vast majority of people aren't hooked on it, would it be worth it to render this drug ineffective to the masses just because of the few junkies that are downing this medication on a reg

  • Yay! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jez9999 ( 618189 )
    Ah goody. Another blow landed in the Puritans' War On Fun. Soon, we'll all be living as their god intended, with no frivolous distractions at all! What could be more satisfying?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by operagost ( 62405 )
      What makes you think "puritans" are behind this?
  • a use for this, as court mandated immunizations of drug addicts who go in and out of the criminal system on a regular basis. I would major issues if the gov was to require this in all people, similar to other immunizations that you get when your a child.
    • Unfortunately it won't be the Government, it will be your employer.. (with the help, of course, of a government program)

      As for getting the kids 'treated' that's easy; our corporate overlords just insist that in the future they will not employ anyone who was not 'treated' near birth. After all, what sort of parent would possibly refuse? only 'bad' ones huh?
  • I've never tried cocaine. Should I?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pojut ( 1027544 )
      Coke is ok...you gotta watch out for getting crap, though. Crappy (i.e. really cut) coke is REALLY crappy. As a drug, coke is decent, but it lasts for a very short time...minute for minute, it's extremely expensive (and, in my opinion, it's effects do not warrent the high price of entry.)

      For the price of an eight-ball, you could get enough shrooms for yourself and a few of your friends...much better experience. You have the opportunity to learn things by taking substances like shrooms, weed, salvia, etc.
  • by lwhalen ( 231260 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:25PM (#21896764)
    Wasn't this a subplot of Neuromancer or something, where the main character was forcibly taken away from his various addictions by having his liver modified to not process the various chemicals?
  • talk about treating highly addictive drugs and their addiction as a disease, and not a crime

    what say them to this? interesting revealing of the colors here

    aside: my belief is that marijuana, lsd, anything nonaddictive should be legal, but highly addictive drugs like coke, meth, heroin should be illegal

  • by stevejsmith ( 614145 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:27PM (#21896808) Homepage
    Oh, great. Cocaine prohibition produced crack cocaine and meth, crackdowns on ingredients to make ecstacy produced PMA, heroin prohibition produces all sorts of gross things, etc., etc. Cocaine is actually one of the safer stimulants out there (compared to its main rivals, crack and meth, which emerged due to cocaine's astronomical price thanks to prohibition). This insane drug whack-a-mole game is producing even more deadly and impure drugs. While we could be ingesting small and known quantities of pure marijuana, MDMA, cocaine, opiates, shrooms, and LSD, we're instead ingesting unknown quantities of who-knows-what. Most drug deaths are caused by adulterants, not the pure drug itself.
  • It's an intriguing scientific idea... but there are undertones of social control which are somewhat unsettling. Would children face mandatory vaccination? Or would we merely target individuals who are beyond hope of recovering from addiction?

    In the end, it's irrelevant anyway. It's the same type of thinking as trying to make a disc format which is "uncrackable". People will simply switch to another drug: there's plenty of them.

    If you really want to kill the drugs, address the social problems and mental heal
  • Hmm, would this drug attack strictly the dangerous refined cocaine or non-dangers like relaxing coca tea, quite popular in Peru and other Souther American countries, brewed from the leaves of the plant that can be refined to cocaine.

    And what about coca-cola...if users become allergic to it then I guess we finally would know the secret recipe. ;-)
  • Are they giving Coke addicts free Cocaine while they perfect their formulas?

    Junkies, get it while you can!
  • And in the not-too-distant future, a week after the governments of the world force vaccinate everyone against cocaine (so the terrorists don't "win"), some scientist will discover a way to use cocaine to cure cancer...

    Think ill of me if you will, but you know governments think like this and Murphy's Law loves irony... Oh how we are penny wise, and pound foolish.

  • If they make one for caffeine, the whole of the open source movement is down the tubes!
  • by teslar ( 706653 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:33PM (#21896944)
    Here we have a vaccine which prevents you from getting high on cocaine. My first thought was "Interesting". My second was "Who would actually want it?" If I'm not a coke user, I won't need it. If I am a coke user, I won't want it. So TFA says it's for people who try to give up:

    "At some point, most users will give in to temptation and relapse, but those for whom the vaccine is effective won't get high and will lose interest."
    Well, fair enough, but I'm not sure it will do them any good.

    From what I understand about drug addiction and attempts to kick the habit, you won't just "lose interest", you'll be going through living hell for quite a while - your body is looking for something you're not giving it, it's going to be pretty mad at you. This is why people relapse - they remember the shiny happy times, ignore that bad bits about those times and it all looks so much better than what they're in at the moment, so they go back to their drug.

    If you use this vaccine, then that becomes impossible, you burn that bridge. But that doesn't remove the desire to be back on drugs, it just removes your favourite one from the list of possibilities. There's still plenty of others around and I think it's pretty safe to say that people who were going to relapse anyway will do so with or without the vaccine - the only thing that will change is the drug they'll use. So that'll be a statistic to look for: What percentage of people trying to give up Cocaine on this vaccine will end up on another drug? Compare this to a control group of people not on vaccine ending up going back to cocaine.
  • by damburger ( 981828 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:33PM (#21896954)

    I'm deadly serious.

    Used as an involuntary jab to fight the idiotic 'war on drugs' it is a clear violation of civil and cognitive liberty (I'm using that phrase more and more these days, not something I'm happy about). Used as part of a rehab programme, it kills the drug use without addressing the underlying weakness of character that created the addict. They are likely to fuck themselves up in some other way.

    There isn't always, and shouldn't always be, a quick fix.

    • Used as an involuntary jab to fight the idiotic 'war on drugs' it is a clear violation of civil and cognitive liberty

      What the hell are you talking about? How is the availability of a vaccine a violation of anyone's rights?

      Used as part of a rehab programme, it kills the drug use without addressing the underlying weakness of character that created the addict.

      Or it could finally get an addicted person clean, after which he/she has no desire to put him/her self back in that state of dependency.

      I'm no fan of the "War on Drugs", but there is some really dumb hostility towards this development.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:34PM (#21896964) Homepage

    The anti-smoking vaccine, NicVax [corporate-ir.net], is in phase 2B clinical testing, and appears to work. Sort of: "High antibody responders (top 30%) continued to show statistically significant abstinence at nine months: 9-Month continuous abstinence rate: NicVAX=20% (12/61, p=0.0076) vs. Placebo=6% (6/100)" That's not impressive, yet it's better than most anti-smoking programs.

    Nicotine addiction is the toughest one to break. Programs for getting people off cocaine are about 40% successful. Programs for getting people off smoking are about 10-20% successful. Also, addicts tend to "age out" of cocaine and heroin addiction; after age 40, most of them eventually give it up. Not nicotine; people smoke their way to the grave.

    One problem with a vaccine approach is that encourage overdoses, to overcome the antibodies. For nicotine, this is less of a problem, because smoking has a limited intake rate. But for cocaine, it's a real issue.

    It's encouraging, though, that no side effects of this vaccine have been detected so far vs. the placebo.

    The real promise for this vaccine is as a preventative measure. The average age for a new smoker is 13. [state.il.us] Only 10% start after age 18. So if this works, a school inoculation program might be the way to prevent smoking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      I hate smoking as much as anybody but an in school vaccination program for behavior modification?
      Just seems wrong to me. Maybe if my kid starts and wants to stop and is having problems but as a preventative measure?
      I would have to say no to that.
    • by TheCouchPotatoFamine ( 628797 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @01:45PM (#21897196)
      There's no need for this. Not when a whole *class* of new drugs are coming out around nicotine anyway.

      Chantix got me off of ten years of smoking in two months, experientially, not just for while i was on it, but apparently *reversed* the entire psychological and physical process from those years.

      Every other time i tried to quit i'd have to avoid bars and lounges so i didn't come in contact with ANY smoke at all. After chantix therapy, I don't have to avoid anything, *i just don't want to smoke*.

      I'll leave it to you (i'm already aware) of exactly why chantix has such a powerful effect. Given, i would never never never.. ...never never never take a "vaccine" that has a life long effect for anything other then a pathogen or bent protein. For a basic neurotransmitter mimic? youve GOT to be kidding me, scares the shit out of me. End of story
  • What exactly is making people immune to certain drugs going to accomplish? New drugs are being created for this purpose (to get high) on a regular basis. Immunizing against one will simply lead to a rise in another, and the drug companies will always be 5 steps behind.

    This vaccine seems like a way for the drug companies to increase profits - imagine what will happen if it's proven safe and then mandated by the U.S. or State governments. Guess who ends up paying for these wonder-drugs that are going to be
  • Suboxone (Score:3, Informative)

    by lansirill ( 244071 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:06PM (#21897562)
    This sounds similar in use, I have absolutely no clue about the pharmacology involved, to Suboxone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suboxone [wikipedia.org] and antabuse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antabuse [wikipedia.org]. This is fairly second hand knowledge, my fiancee is a drug and alcohol counselor, but I thought I'd share.
  • by LordZardoz ( 155141 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:07PM (#21897582)
    I expected some responses to this topic to be against the notion of the vaccine on the basis of 'OMG Next they come for anything else that is fun'. But the number of those responses surprises me.

    Now, I am sure there are many people on this site who (gasp!) smoke marijuanna. And I am sure there are people here who like to cap their weekends here with hookers and blow. And I am sure they also have such many wonderful stories as "I put a half kilo up my nose every week and I am a fully productive member of society". To all of those people, I say the following:

    Get a clue.

    For one, I highly doubt westernized society would be quick to start to inflict any form of medical procedure on someone who does not wish it. We let plenty of idiots choose not to vaccinate their children against measles and the like. I am sure plenty of nutjobs out there would like to see an anti-cocaine vaccine be made manditory, but I do not think it will happen.

    For another, I am also sure there are plenty of people who would like to end their addictions, but find themsleves unable to. I do not think that there are many people out there who would wake up one day and say "Wow, I really wish I was still addicted to cocaine."

    I agree, however, that there is danger in this vaccine in that it can also affect a lot of anesthetic's used for medical purposes. That danger should be very carefully looked into.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by yndrd1984 ( 730475 )
      For one, I highly doubt westernized society would be quick to start to inflict any form of medical procedure on someone who does not wish it.

      Right, because in modern, western countries (say 1970s US) we'd never castrate 'mental defectives', pointlessly cut out healthy appendixes and tonsils, or circumcise children based on cultural myths and bogus medicine. Oh, wait - that was legal in the US in 1970, and the second two were quite common.

      We let plenty of idiots choose not to vaccinate their children a

  • LD50 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HPNpilot ( 735362 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @02:23PM (#21897954) Homepage
    If I understand this correctly, this will prevent cocaine users from getting high. But how does it affect the LD50 (dosage sufficient to kill 50% of the population)?

    A cocaine user decides to get high after being "immunized." He snorts a few lines. Huh. Nothing. So he snorts more and more... at some point I am willing to wager he will suffer cardiac arrest or some other life-threatening problem on his quest towards getting high. If the LD50 is not much changed, this may occur pretty easily.

    Also, cocaine has a very rapid onset. I am thinking it wouldn't take much to overwhelm the slower immune system response.

    This is an interesting experiment as it is always worthwhile to better understand the immune system, but I think this would be a Real Bad Idea to actually implement. Unless the objective is to kill all cocaine users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rush22 ( 772737 )
      If you read the article, it says antibodies bind themselves to the cocaine. It does not say that the antibodies block cocaine receptors in the brain, or change the brain in any way. It's not a neurological drug they are talking about, it is a vaccine.

      With a cocaine vaccine, the cocaine antibodies will bind themselves to the cocaine molecules. The cocaine is thus rendered harmless--harmless to the brain, heart, or other organs. That's the way antibodies work as far as I know. The antibodies will bind to the
  • wait, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Duncan Blackthorne ( 1095849 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:02PM (#21898628)
    ..human trials for vaccines against both cocaine and nicotine are well under way.

    Do they really think that a "vaccine" against nicotine is going to help people? If they're already addicted to nicotine for years and years, aren't they going to continue smoking and either make themselves really sick (as their immune systems attempt to fight off the nicotine) or just keep smoking away?

  • by Lethyos ( 408045 ) on Thursday January 03, 2008 @03:20PM (#21898934) Journal

    Both would prefer no other pleasures exist to compete with their interests, as suggested by George Orwell [wikipedia.org].

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein