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Medicine Science

Alcoholism Vaccine Makes Alcohol Intolerable To Drinkers 350

Hugh Pickens writes "Ariel Schwartz reports that researchers are working on an alcoholism vaccine that makes alcohol intolerable to anyone who drinks it. The vaccine builds on what happens naturally in certain people — about 20% of the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean population — with an alcohol intolerance mutation. Normally, the liver breaks down alcohol into an enzyme that's transformed into the compound acetaldehyde (responsible for that nasty hangover feeling), which in turn is degraded into another enzyme. The acetaldehyde doesn't usually have time to build up before it's broken down. But people with the alcohol intolerance mutation lack the ability to produce that second enzyme; acetaldehyde accumulates, and they feel terrible. Dr. Juan Asenjo and his colleagues have come up with a way to stop the synthesis of that second enzyme via a vaccine, mimicking the mutation that sometimes happens naturally. 'People have this mutation all over the world. It's like how some people can't drink milk,' says Asenjo. Addressing the physiological part of alcohol addiction is just one piece of the battle. Addictive tendencies could very well manifest in other ways; instead of alcohol, perhaps former addicts will move on to cigarettes. Asenjo admits as much: 'Addiction is a psychological disease, a social disease. Obviously this is only the biological part of it.'"
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Alcoholism Vaccine Makes Alcohol Intolerable To Drinkers

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  • Scary idea (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:06PM (#42913785)

    This is one vaccine some people would want to avoid. Imagine a winelover accidentally getting stuck with one and having their passion ruined for life.

  • by sokoban ( 142301 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:10PM (#42913853) Homepage

    It could put you at a higher risk of developing liver cancer. []

  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:15PM (#42913931) Homepage Journal

    As a medicine, continuing treatment with ant-abuse is voluntary. As a vaccine, it's a life altering event.

    I'd be interested to see the first DUI case where a judge says "six months in the workhouse OR the vaccine."

  • by kramer2718 ( 598033 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:27PM (#42914161) Homepage

    There is also a genetic basis for nicotine tolerance. The mechanism is essentially the same. There is an gene that codes for an enzyme which removes nicotine from the bloodstream. This gene has several different alleles that code for more or less effective versions of the same enzyme. Individuals who have the allele that codes for the most effective enzyme are heavy smokers if they smoke. They smoke a cigarette, receive the desired stimulation, and then the enzyme clears the nicotine. Thus they desire another dose soon afterward. Individuals who produce the least effective version of the enzyme get sick when they smoke. The enzyme fails to clear the toxin in a reasonable time and they feel ill, sometimes vomiting. Individuals producing middling effective versions can be occasional smokers. Read more here [].

    If researchers can create a treatment for alcohol in this way, they can probably create a smoking treatment as well. It is unlikely, though, that the treatment would alleviate withdrawal symptoms on its own. This approach likely will lead to treatments for other addiction problems also.

    If there come sto exist effective treatments for illegal drugs, there will be serious socio-political implications. The rational for the the war on drugs will be completely destroyed. If people can choose effective treatment, then there will be no unwilling chemical dependence. This will decrease crime, health problems, and other negative effects of dangerous drugs. So there will be no basis for illegality. Will that change the politics surrounding drugs? I don't think so.

  • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:33PM (#42914283)

    easier to dose them with a mushroom pizza, made with shaggy mane mushrooms. Same effect, less permanent.

    Mushroom ingestion disrupts enzyme activity for up to 3 weeks.

    Hilariously, shaggy mane mushrooms frequently grow on lawns, and are easily identifiable. [] There is a reasonably good chance you can find them simply growing on the campus quad, if you live in the northern hemisphere.

    Sadly, due to the nature of the mushroom, it decomposes rapidly after being picked, so only fresh mushroom could be used for this purpose. In terms of taste and texture, it is similar to crimini, though has a different appearance when sliced. Disguising the mushroom in a saute' will not adversely effect the action of the coprine (active agent present in the mushroom) and will enable one to better deliver the joke mushroom to one's peers.

  • by Psyborgue ( 699890 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:42PM (#42914439) Homepage Journal
    Better an injection that lasts 6 months and can teach a person self control in the mean time than a sentence to a cult-like organization that convinces you that you're destined to die unless you attend their fruity little club until the end of your life. AA's success rate is no better than the spontaneous rate of remission (doing nothing at all). Yet it's worshiped as a solution because A: it's free and B: proselytization is part of the program. Popularity != quality. Fucking cancerous boil of a religion on the ass of science. Thank god for scientific solutions like this that can finally put the nail the the quackery coffin, but you can bet your ass twelve steppers and their ilk will be out in (often anonymous) force, trying to get this banned or at least lobbying against it's use.
  • by firex726 ( 1188453 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:44PM (#42914479)

    Just FYI a quick trip to Wiki might educate you on that. Don't assume stuff and pass it off as scientific fact.
    It's not been conclusively shown it is dehydration. It is but one of several leading theories: []

    > Hypoglycemia, dehydration, acetaldehyde intoxication, and glutamine rebound are all theorized causes of hangover symptoms.

    You can read more in the cited sources of the article.

  • Re:This is news? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plover ( 150551 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:49PM (#42914549) Homepage Journal

    I just said I'd like to see it, not participate! I think it will make for some interesting ethics discussions.

    Imagine a drunk driver convicted of vehicular homicide being involuntarily sentenced to receive the vaccine. Is that ethical? Ask the victim's family if it's ethical to release him from prison without the vaccine?

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:57PM (#42914699)
    Most of the actual works I've seen (which are more reliable than wikipedia) have said that hangovers symptoms have been demonstrated to be linked to several of those factors, but that dehydration is by far the most significant overall (though others may be more significant in particular individuals, depending on individual sensitivities and other conditions.)
  • Re:Scary idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:13PM (#42914929)

    Worst case it would be ruined for 6 months.

    When you read TFA, is says:

    With one dose of the vaccine, the mice’s drinking habits diminish by 50% for 30 days.

    That would suggest the effect is far shorter than 6 months, and the vaccine far less effective than most here seem to think.
    Chances are, the occasional, small. glass of wine wouldn't even affect most people.

    If the effect only lasts for 30 days, (or, giving the benefit of the doubt, 6 months), the true alcoholic would find excuses
    to miss that second shot.

    As for accidentally getting this shot, don't discount the possibility of a court order, or at the very least, a court
    ordered choice, the shot or jail. A shot with this short period of efficacy probably isn't likely to be successful
    in either combating alcoholism or preventing drinking, simply because it appears to be so short acting.

    In fact, one wonders if it really qualifies as a vaccine. One of the hallmarks of a vaccine according to wiki is: "[an agent that] stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters."

    This treatment seems merely to be an agent that suppress the production of a naturally occurring bodily enzyme, but only while the agent is present in quantity sufficient to trigger the suppression. It seems to have no lasting effect.

  • Re:Underestimating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by afeeney ( 719690 ) on Friday February 15, 2013 @04:24PM (#42915083)

    I have either that mutation or some other factor that makes drinking even a tiny amount of alcohol a horrible experience. I can handle about a teaspoonful of wine or a quarter cup of beer, but any more than that and I feel nauseated and dizzy with a terrible headache and grogginess. It developed about the time I hit 30 and the same thing happened with my mother at around age 35, so I assume that it's a genetic factor that either gets triggered with age or some environmental factor.

    I was always a light drinker and never felt emotionally or physiologically dependent upon it, so my experience is NOTHING like an alcoholic's or somebody whose entirely social life is dependent upon drinking, but I gave up drinking immediately once it developed. Didn't matter that I'd just started being able to appreciate the good stuff and really enjoy it, I dropped it completely.

    Can't say how it would work for an alcoholic, but I'd imagine it'd be very effective on somebody who is concerned about becoming one.

  • Re:Such resentment! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:03PM (#42917825)
    Parent deserves +1 correct moderation.

    A year ago I was drinking a fifth of vodka every day, sometimes more. That's 17+ standard drinks a day by american standards, at least. Enough to cause seizures, hallucinations, and possibly death if I had stopped drinking "cold turkey".

    So I didn't go cold turkey. I didn't go to a single AA meeting and I sure as HELL didn't check into "rehab". Instead, I bought a calendar and marked off how many drinks a day I was allowed. I started with 17 drinks a day and drank one less drink per day until I was down to 2 drinks per day, which I kept up for a few weeks until I became an occasional drinker. There were a couple of fuckups along the way where I drank way more than I should have. But in the morning after I'd check the calendar and resolve to keep trying. It worked, and I'm not normally an especially strong-willed person. I think it was the knowledge that alcoholism would kill me and ruin all my relationships if I didn't do something about it. Oh also, it was very satisfying to contradict the very unthinking common opinion that quitting drinking is "impossible on your own". It's all about willpower and priorities. Some people definitely need help quitting alcohol because they lack the will to do it themselves, but I think that fear and misinformation pushes a lot of people into AA and rehab unnecessarily.

    People have been using alcohol to taper off of alcohol-dependence for as long as people have been drinking alcohol. Keep that in mind at all times. If you AA nuts think I'm full of shit then why don't you go talk to some vietnam veterans and hear about how they quit heroin all on their own when they returned to the 'States.

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