Opioid epidemic and the heroin vaccine

“The heroin vaccine is one step closer to clinical evaluation,” says Candy S. Hwang, PhD, first author of the study and a research associate at TSRI.

With approximately 10 people overdosing an hour in this country, it’s hard for anyone not to be optimistic about the prospect of a heroin vaccine.

As a recovering addict, I too am hopeful. Not only at the prospect of saving lives, but because this vaccine is evidence of an emerging shift in the way drug addiction is understood.

I know that addiction is a chronic illness of the brain, and like all other illnesses it needs to be treated. But so many people, including those in the health care industry and our lawmakers, unfortunately disagree. Far too many people still believe that a punitive system, mandatory minimums or an ANTI DRUG campaign is the answer. These are the same people that believe addicts are just poor in character or suffered from a bad moral upbringing and that JUST SAY NO is not only a treatment but a cure. The stigma is real, the shame based approach is rampant- even with all the research.

Evidence shows that long term medication (Vivitrol/ Methadone/Suboxone) nearly doubles an addict’s chance of recovery, but too many people still think of this as a substitute and believe reforming an addict’s personality is what is needed. Possibly this is why less than 1/3 of the treatment centers in this country offer Medical Assisted Treatment Programs (MAT). Even with the stats showing that 50% of addicts relapse within 6 months of treatment (most within the first 90 days) Abstinence Based Recovery Programs have been the current standard.

In the early 20th Century Tuberculosis was believed to be caused by a person’s lifestyle. Don’t believe me? Look it up- it’s true. The thought was that ignorance and poverty (not Bacteria or pathogens) were to blame for the epidemic, and that if we could just take all of these sick people far away and lock them in sanatoriums we were treating it. In the late 40’s drugs and a vaccine were promising in the treatment of TB but because of politics, finances and stigma it took many more years before they were used.

Something to think about…

I Expect more.