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With addiction to heroin a growing problem, researchers have been looking for a cure for a while. Scientists at Mexico’s National Institute of Psychiatry report they have successfully tested a heroin vaccine on mice and now are ready to use it on humans.
In spite of the fact that Mexico is a country that contends with unremitting drug-related violence and crime, Mexican scientists are working on a vaccine that could actually reduce addiction to heroin. This vaccine has been successful in animal studies and now the National Institute of Psychiatry researchers believe it is ready to be tested on humans.

The institute’s director Maria Elena Medina conveys that the vaccine is for people who are serious addicts and who have failed other treatment options. Apparently, the vaccine works by making the body resilient to the effects of heroin, so the users do not feel the rush of pleasure they usually get from injecting, snorting, or inhaling the drug. The heroin vaccine is patented in the United States and is the first of its kind.

Medina says, “The vaccine will not be the solution to all addictions, but is one way to confront the problem, above all in the treatment field. It is hoped that the vaccinated person will have a lower desire to consume the drug because the dose of the vaccine will block the pleasure of taking it.”

The group of scientists is close to making a breakthrough on this much needed vaccine and recently received funding from the U.S. Institute as well as the Mexican government. The vaccine has been tested in mice and during these many tests, the mice were given access to heroin over a period of time. Those who received the vaccine showed a huge drop in their heroin consumption compared with those mice that did not get the shot. This gives the researchers hope that the same effects will be seen in people.

According to the Spanish-language newspaper “Reforma”, the injection works by inciting an immune response that blocks heroin from entering the central nervous system and attaching to the opioid receptors in the brain stem. This diminishes the impact of the drug 'hit' that has a comparable effect to a rush of endorphins.

Mexico, like the United States, has a growing drug addiction problem. The Health Secretary, Jose Cordoba, recently reported that the country has over 450,000 drug addicts and is a major drug producing country. Mexican gangs grow opium poppies, the plant resource for the drug heroin, and make the heroin from this plant. This ‘Black Tar’ or ‘Mexican Mud’ is smuggled into the U.S. in large quantities, making both countries susceptible to abuse potential. It is reported that since 2006, cartel violence has claimed over 47,000 Mexican lives and more is expected.

  • Bates, C. (2012). Vaccine to beat heroin addiction 'is just five years away’. Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2097741/Heroin-vaccine-addiction-just-years-away.html?ITO=1490
  • Grillo, I. (2012). Mexican researchers patent heroin vaccine. Retrieved from: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/02/24/us-mexico-heroin-idUKTRE81N01I20120224
  • Photo courtesy of pAkNgaH NaZRi by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/pakngahnazri/2824435679/