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Is an Opioid Vaccine Possible?

Researchers have discovered what could be a potential vaccine that blocks fentanyl from affecting the brain in hopes of curbing the opioid addiction epidemic continuing to sweep the country. With a rate of over 150 deaths daily, the ongoing crisis of nearly three decades needs a substantial solution—fast.

A team of experts at the University of Houston designed an inoculation with the intent of targeting the powerful opioid fentanyl in hopes of assisting people who are attempting to stop using the drug and avoid future relapse. With opioid addiction relapse rates at a high 80%, this aspect of the vaccine is particularly important in helping people achieve long-lasting recovery without the lurking dread of relapse and subsequent potential overdose that may occur. It may also work to help prevent accidental overdose in drug users who consume non-opioid illicit substances that may be laced with a fatal dose of fentanyl, which is an all too common occurrence that has emerged recently.

How would a Fentanyl Vaccine Work?

Vaccines that work against drug misuse aren’t as common as those for deadly, highly-infectious viruses, although the idea has existed for quite some time. While researchers have tinkered with formulas that would protect people struggling with heroin and cocaine misuse, none ever reached the stages for human use. However, the urgency of the opioid epidemic that shows no signs of stopping has pushed scientists further than ever to find a solution to the senseless devastation of overdose deaths plaguing the country.

The fentanyl vaccine would utilize antibodies that fight fentanyl off before it enters the brain, thusly thwarting off any euphoric high or potentially deadly depression of the central nervous system that could lead to aspiration, low blood oxygen levels, and decreased heart rate. Though it’s mainly being created to curb cravings and keep the chronic disease of addiction at bay, the vaccine’s ability to reverse overdose still needs more thorough research and testing. This aspect of the inoculation will be particularly important as authorities are now seeing cases where a single dose of naloxone, an overdose reversal drug, is not enough to help people with high amounts of fentanyl in their systems.

Additionally, the specific formulation would make it so those who received the vaccine could still be treated for pain using other medications, including other opioids, if necessary. This important distinction could prevent future vaccine hesitancy for people concerned that they may not be able to seek emergency pain management in case of severe injury or critical pre-op anesthesia.

Although it may take several years, the potential fentanyl vaccine brings hope to people struggling with opioid addiction, but evidence-based programs like medication-assisted treatment are currently helping millions of people striving for a life free of substance misuse. Recovery Services of New Mexico offers accessible help in professional outpatient facilities equipped with specialized medical providers and nursing staff. Additionally, patients have access to substance use counselors who can help address the mental health aspects of addiction to increase their chances of reaching their recovery goals long-term. To learn more about the treatment programs available at RSONM, message or call the nearest facility today.


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