October 6, 2009 in Nation/World

Vaccine-like shots help fight cocaine addiction

Lindsey Tanner Associated Press
 

CHICAGO – Vaccine-like shots to keep cocaine abusers from getting high also helped them fight their addiction in the first successful rigorous study of this approach to treating illicit drug use.

The shots didn’t work perfectly, but the researchers say their limited success is promising enough to suggest the intriguing vaccine approach could be widely used to treat addiction within several years.

“It is such an important study. It clearly demonstrates … that it is possible to generate vaccine that could interfere with cocaine actions in the brain,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study.

The results come days after that government agency announced plans for the first late-stage study of an experimental nicotine vaccine designed to help people quit smoking. The NicVAX vaccine has been fast-tracked by the Food and Drug Administration, and the research will be paid for with federal stimulus money.

The cocaine and nicotine vaccines both use the same approach, stimulating the immune system to produce antibodies that attach to molecules of the drugs and block them from reaching the brain.

In the new study, cocaine-fighting antibodies helped prevent users from getting a euphoric high and led nearly 40 percent of them to substantially cut or stop cocaine use at least temporarily.

The study appears in October’s Archives of General Psychiatry, released Monday.

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