Can A Vaccine Cure A Cocaine Addiction?

There has always been a scientific dash to create a compound that curbs the pleasurable effects of cocaine. It now appears that scientists at New York’s Cornell Medical College have developed a vaccine that does just that.  Cocaine is one of the most addictive substances in the world. If there is now a vaccine that can successfully get cocaine users to stop getting the high they are used to we could see a dramatic decrease in the number of individuals who abuse the drug. However, we should be careful not to get to excited just yet.

Cocaine High

Cocaine works by binding to receptors that normally would receive dopamine from another neuron. That leaves excess dopamine stuck between neurons, stimulating these neurons to fire rapidly, creating the euphoric feeling users experience. Some scientists believe this high makes cocaine the most addictive of drugs and is the reason why behavior therapy has not always been effective in helping addicts stay off the drug permanently.

How The Vaccine Works

Cornell is reporting that a single dose of the vaccine works to intercept the reaction cocaine has when it enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain (which takes about six seconds from when it enters). The researchers have simulated the study many different times and are now conducting studies with mice, which show similar, promising results.

Potential Problems

Even if the vaccine proves itself in later studies, addiction specialists warn that it is still not the cure all that scientists are making it out to be. Addicts will try to overcome the immunological blockade by increasing their cocaine intake. This is incredibly dangerous as it can lead to an increase in overdoses. Additionally, everyone has a different immune system which will act differently in response to a new vaccine. This is especially true for users who are immune-compromised.


Unlike opiates such as heroin or prescription painkillers, up until now there has been no medication specifically engineered to help curb cocaine consumption. That is why the ultimate goal is that by developing and producing inexpensive vaccines for addicts, society will be able to reduce the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on user’s medical care and incarceration.

Ultimately, however, killing the cocaine high does not do anything to address the more serious and underlying psychology of addiction. Addicts are nothing if not resourceful, and just because they are not able to get high off cocaine does not mean they will stop abusing drugs altogether.  There are plenty of addictive substances out there, any of which could be a replacement for the no-longer effective cocaine. Therapy, support groups and cocaine rehab facilities should still be considered the main component of any successful recovery.

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