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Proposed New Zealand vaccine hopes to combat drug addiction

Proposed New Zealand vaccine hopes to combat drug addiction

Proposed New Zealand vaccine hopes to combat drug addiction

A vaccine to treat drug addiction is in the works. A Kiwi scientist is exploring a new treatment which would teach our immune system to reject specific drugs before they trigger highs.

Victoria University of Wellington scientist, Dr Benjamin Compton, hopes to bring us a major step closer to a vaccine for drug addiction, with the help of an Explorer Grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Working with immunologist Dr Lisa Connor, Dr Compton is pioneering a vaccine platform that can generate an immune response to small drug-like compounds. His concept is to circumvent the need for protein-based activation of the immune system to drive this response.

The aim of his groudbreaking research is to instruct the body’s immune system to recognise a specific drug when it enters the bloodstream, and to treat it like a toxin: that means antibodies would bind to the targeted drug in the periphery and prevent it from crossing the blood-brain barrier where it would normally interact with receptors and trigger ‘a high’.

According to Dr Compton, vaccines are one of the most cost-effective and powerful health interventions available. “If you can’t get high from the drug, then hopefully there’s no point in taking it at all,” he says, adding that will work best for those who are motivated to kick the habit.

“Achieving this would herald a new paradigm in immunopharmacotherapy,” says Dr Compton. “And importantly, we’re aiming to design a vaccine that can be manufactured en masse, at low cost.”

The New Zealand Drug Foundation reports 45,000 New Zealanders receive support to reduce their alcohol and drug use each year – and that is estimated to be just a third of those experiencing problems with their use.

The Ministry of Health puts the cost of drug harm and interventions at $1.8 billion.

Dr Compton says if all goes to plan, the vaccine could be widely available in 2023. The concept will be tested at first on mice.

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One Comment on Proposed New Zealand vaccine hopes to combat drug addiction

  • Linda
    April 3, 2019 12:56 pm

    Interesting, but if a child or teenager gets all the nutrition they need through wholefood diet plus enough attention and love, then their chances of drug addiction is dramatically reduced. Cravings for anything is your body telling you that you are missing out on vital nutrients, eat lots of leafy greens and fruit. Eating sunflower seeds also helps with cravings and can help give up smoking.

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