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Cocaine Vaccine? Meds for Meth Addicts? Current News in Addiction

addiction2015 is starting off on a high note for researchers in the drug addiction field, with recent studies showing promise for preventing cocaine addiction and treating methamphetamine addiction.

The search for a “vaccine” to prevent cocaine from getting users high is not new. However, researchers from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, have recently taken a new approach to developing this remedy, and preliminary results are positive.

The researchers’ method, which has only been tested on mice thus far, uses a bacteria to elicit an inflammatory response to cocaine.

Basically, a cocaine hapten (a small molecule intended to create an immune response) called GNE was attached to a bacterial protein called flagellin to get the immune system to attack. (Flagellin is also being used to develop better flu vaccines and a possible Ebola vaccine.)

As hoped, the flagellin/GNE combos led to the production of anti-GNE antibodies. This response could dull cocaine’s effects in someone “immunized” with the vaccine.

These findings were published on the website of the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics in late December 2014.

 Gov’t Researchers Developing Medication for Meth Addicts

Meanwhile, over at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a research team has been inching closer developing a medication that may help methamphetamine addicts kick the habit. In the past 10 years, a team led by pharmacologist Dr. Linda Dwoskin has developed more than 1,000 compounds in the hopes of finding one that will prevent meth from getting its users high.

Methamphetamine creates its high through its interaction with a protein called the vesicular monoamine transporter 2 (VMAT2). (Monoamines are things like serotonin and dopamine that can affect feelings and emotions.)

According to the NIDA Blog, NIDA Notes, way back in 1994, Dr. Dwoskin discovered that a compound called lobeline also interacts with VMAT2, but doesn’t cause the same euphoric, and addictive, effects as meth. At the time, Dwoskin was studying lobeline—which comes from the plant lobelia, long used as an herbal remedy for everything from nicotine addiction to congestion—as a  possible treatment for smoking cessation.

While dosing and taste issues made lobeline impractical as a treatment for meth addiction, Dr. Dwoskin has since focused on using the compound’s molecule to work on developing other drugs that will block methamphetamine from acting on VMAT2, in much the same way Suboxone (naloxone/buprenorphine) and Vivitrol (naltrexone) block opioid receptors in opiate addicts.

The NIDA Notes blog will recount and continue to follow Dr. Dwoskin and her team’s journey as they work to develop these drugs. You can read it here: www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes

Photo courtesy of Alan Cleaver https://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver on flickr

Cocaine Vaccine? Meds for Meth Addicts? Current News in Addiction