Researchers at the University of Houston in Texas have manufactured a vaccine that could block the high fentanyl users feel after taking the drug. KHOU reports the vaccine will take at least three years to be released for use, and the news of the new immunization even earned the University of Houston a visit by Texas Governor Greg Abbott who toured the university’s fentanyl vaccine lab today.
The study, conducted by a research team led by the University of Houston and funded by the Department of Defense through the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Disorder Research Program, was published in the journal Pharmaceutics at the end of October.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, is prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain after surgery or for advanced-stage cancer patients. However, illicitly manufactured fentanyl can also be abused for a “short-term high” or “temporary feelings of euphoria” and is deadly when added to street drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and other opioids. “Over 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl,” estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Colin Haile, a research associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study, said in a news release that the vaccine “is able to generate anti-fentanyl antibodies that bind to the consumed fentanyl and prevent it from entering the brain, allowing it to be eliminated out of the body via the kidneys.
This is very good news since the amount of fentanyl deaths for Americans occurring is massive. However, vaccines to treat addiction overall are not without critics. People who question the use of vaccines to treat addiction say that addiction involves psychological and physical issues and immunization would only treat a part of the problem. Their criticisms are valid, but fentanyl is a potent drug that has penetrated almost every social circle in the United States in some way. If a vaccine for any addiction is made and released, the physical and psychological state of patients immunized should be addressed by medical personnel too.
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