Scientists from Brazil, which is the second largest consumer of cocaine in the world, announced that they have developed a new innovative treatment for addictions to the drug and its powerful derivative, crack. It’s a vaccine.
Researchers hope that the “Calixcoca” test vaccine will help break the addiction cycle by blocking cocaine and crack from entering the brain.
People with an addiction will no longer be able to get high on the drug.
This is the first time a vaccine has been used to treat cocaine addiction, according to Frederico Garcia, psychiatrist and coordinator of the team at the Federal University of Minas Gerais that developed the treatment.
The project was awarded the top prize of 500,000 euros ($530,000), sponsored by Eurofarma, at the Euro Health Innovation awards in Latin American medicine.
The vaccine is designed to prevent cocaine from reaching the brain’s reward center, the mesolimbic or “reward system,” because the antibodies bind to the molecules of cocaine in the bloodstream.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, similar studies were conducted in the United States – the top cocaine consumer in the world. Garcia says that the investigations stalled because clinical trials failed to show sufficient results.
Calixcoca is a drug that has been shown to be effective when tested on animals. It produces significant levels of anti-cocaine antibodies and causes few side effects.
Researchers found that it also protected rat fetuses from cocaine. This suggests that it can be used to protect unborn babies in pregnant addicts.
Now, the vaccine will be tested on humans in its final phase of testing.
Garcia believes Calixcoca can reshape treatment for addiction.
There is no registered treatment for crack and cocaine addiction. “We use a mixture of psychological counseling and social assistance, as well as rehabilitation when needed,” he says.
Calixcoca is a valuable tool that can help patients in critical phases of recovery, such as after they leave rehab.
It is cheaper to make and store than other vaccines because it uses chemical compounds, not biological ingredients.
Garcia says that it will not be a panacea for everyone.
He says that the exact target group depends on the results of clinical trials. However, it is intended to be recovering drug addicts who are “off (cocaine), and want to remain that way.”
Garcia’s goal is to change a “sad stat” that, according to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), one out of four cocaine users who use it regularly becomes addicted.
After five years, only one out of four addicts is able to stop using.
The vaccine has a high level of anticipation, given the stakes. Garcia’s team has received more than 3,000 requests from people who want to participate in clinical trials.