New Vaccine Could Help Cocaine Addicts

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Cocaine is one hell of a drug and for the more than 2 million people who the addiction affects in the U.S., it can be very hard to beat.

According to Dr. Ronald Crystal, the principal investigator and chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill Cornell, cocaine addiction leads to 500,000 visits to emergency rooms every year.

In order to address this epidemic, Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian have developed a vaccine to blunt the effects of cocaine. Crystal has been working on the vaccine for the past 10 years and it would make the drug less appealing to addicts.

The US Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve a drug specifically to treat cocaine addiction but they now allowed a clinical trial to move forward for study in humans. In earlier animal studies, it was found that the vaccine prevented the drug from reaching the brain.

Crystal commented to Yahoo Finance, “The vaccine develops antibodies against cocaine. These antibodies are like little Pacmen. If you snort some cocaine, these little Pacmen are floating around in the blood and they grab onto the cocaine and prevent it from reaching the brain so they don’t get a high.”

Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian are looking to enroll 30 active cocaine users in a randomized control study to test how the vaccine works with people. There will be both a placebo group in addition to the vaccinated group.

“The phones are ringing off the hook,” he says. “Cocaine addicts want to quit. [The drug is] highly addictive but they want to quit. And many of them can quit for a month or two but then they go to a party and snort a little cocaine and get addicted again. We can find people who are willing to stop for 4 weeks.”