Molecular Imaging Offers New Vaccine For Cocaine Addicts
Cocaine has long been a dangerous, addictive and illegal drug that can produce devastating consequences for its users. The high that comes from cocaine happens when it stimulates the brains neural centers after crossing the blood-brain barrier.
Once in the neuron center of the brain, it interacts with dopamine to provide reward and pleasure. In 2008, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that there were about 1.4 known cocaine addicts in the U.S. Of that number, almost 360,000 used crack cocaine.
The current age group for the most common use is adults between the ages of 18 and 25. One in four ER visits for drug use is estimated to be due to cocaine-related drug abuse, according to a recent article. Researchers say that addicts may soon be able to be vaccinated against the drug if they are unable to kick their cocaine habit.
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in New York City say the new vaccination offers an entirely new treatment model for drug addicts. Addicts may soon use the vaccine to kick their drug habit and will see proof of it through molecular imaging with a PET scan.
This technique shows just how the vaccine prompts the antibodies to take the drug away before it even reaches the brain. Researchers say the PET scan will provide proof that the vaccine works as treatment. They believe it could also be used to test the effectiveness of other vaccines for such addictions as heroin and nicotine.
The vaccine was developed by Dr. Ronald Crystal, the chairman and professor of genetic medicine at Weill. It works by merging a cocaine-like molecule with a piece of the virus from the common cold.
Once the vaccine enters the human body, the immune system identifies the viral particles and then sends out the antibodies to bind the cocaine in the blood which prevents it from entering your brain. It prevents the addict from getting high because it stops interaction with the dopamine transporters.