As fentanyl deaths hit an all-time high in the United States, the search for solutions is heating up as well. Now researchers at the University of Houston say that have developed a potential “game changer”: a vaccine that stops fentanyl from affecting the brain at all.
Let’s be clear: we’ve only reached the rat stage. What happens next is far from certain. But even at this point in the process, it’s an exciting discovery: a vaccine that causes immunized animals to produce antibodies that stop the effects of fentanyl and allowed the drug to be evacuated from the body via the kidneys.
The rats given the shot never experienced the “high” produced by fentanyl. If the same treatment were available for human beings, giving up the drug would be made immensely easier.
Better yet, the researchers have found no significant side effects in the treated rats. Nor did the vaccine interfere with other, potentially useful or necessary, opioids. Vaccinated individuals should, for instance, be able to continue with pain treatment involving morphine or related drugs.
The researchers see promise for both individuals who use fentanyl but hope to quit, and users of other drugs who accidently take the drug—an increasingly common occurrence as drug suppliers lace their products with cheaper, more powerful fentanyl.
If all goes well—and once more, that’s a big if—the vaccine could be available within the next three to four years. But early or not, it’s hard to see this development as anything other than very good news. Read the whole story at Smithsonian Magazine: