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Vaccines for Drug Addiction

Pursuant to a series of new studies, a pair of new vaccines designed to combat cocaine and methamphetamine dependencies not only relieve addiction but also minimize withdrawal symptoms.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) report the vaccines stimulate the body to produce antibodies which then attack the drug while it is in the blood stream. This prevents the drug from reaching the brain and creating the reactions that contribute to dependency.

“These are therapeutic, not preventative, vaccines,” said lead investigator Dr. Thomas Kosten, Jay H. Waggoner Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the Menninger Department of Psychiatry at BCM and research director of the Veteran Affairs national Substance Use Disorders Quality Enhancement Research Initiative.

“They are meant for those who are already suffering from drug addiction.”

Kosten stresses that while the vaccines have been shown to help overcome drug addictions, they do not necessarily curb relapse.

“This is not a stand-alone treatment,” Kosten said. “There is a reason drugs were used in the first place, and that needs to be dealt with either through counseling or behavioral therapies.”

TA-CD, the cocaine vaccine, works through a series of injections over a three-month period. Study participants began to respond favorably to the vaccine after about a month. TA-CD has one more large scale human study scheduled before it is ready for the FDA approval process.

“The vaccine slowly decreases the amount of cocaine that reaches the brain,” Kosten said. “It’s a slow process, and patients do not go through any significant withdrawal symptoms.”

Antibody production was sustained for another nine months following the vaccine treatment. Additional injections were subsequently administered every four to eight weeks, if needed at all.

The methamphetamine vaccine, still in early stages of development, has produced similar results as TA-CD.

While both vaccines spur antibody production, each has a unique protein composition that help the body target the different drugs.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine

Vaccines for Drug Addiction

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Vaccines for Drug Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.