Unlike opiates such as heroin or prescription painkillers, there is no medication specifically approved to help curb cocaine consumption. Now, an experimental vaccine offers hope for a new approach, researchers say, that spurs on antibodies, which bind with cocaine molecules and apparently helps some addicts stop feeling the pleasurable effects of the drug—thus deconditioning them out of their dependency.
Cocaine, both inhaled powder form and smoked "crack" cocaine, accounts for about one in three drug-related emergency room admissions, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And it has about 1.4 million users in the U.S., Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said in a press briefing held today to announce the vaccine findings. Developing a simple vaccine to help addicts stop taking the drug would be a large step in decreasing the overall number of people who use it, many of whom, Volkow noted, are between the ages of 18 and 25.