Anti-cocaine vaccine shows promise in mice
January 5th, 2011
08:56 AM ET

Anti-cocaine vaccine shows promise in mice

A new vaccine shows promise for producing immunity to cocaine’s highly addictive effects. The study - in mice - is published online in Molecular Therapy, one of the Nature journals.

Cocaine is a powerful addictive stimulant that is snorted, smoked or injected. When cocaine enters the central nervous system it produces a sense of euphoria, pleasure and increased energy in the user. It also can cause dangerous increases in blood pressure and heart rate. In 2008, 5.3 million Americans age 12 and older had abused cocaine in any form and 1.1 million had abused crack at least once in the year prior to being surveyed, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Cocaine is an addictive drug with no therapy," said lead study investigator Dr. Ronald Crystal, who called the findings “very promising.”

"One strategy is to treat the addiction using a vaccine against the addictive molecule,” said Crystal, chairman of genetic medicine at Weil Cornell Medical College. His research team created a vaccine produced by combining an inactive common-cold virus with a chemical that imitates cocaine.

The vaccine was able to trigger a robust immune response in the vaccinated mice, producing antibodies that attached themselves to the cocaine molecules and prevented them from passing through the blood-brain barrier, where cocaine acts on the central nervous system. When the vaccinated mice were then injected with cocaine, they showed no reaction to the drug. In contrast, Crystal explained, the control mice, who did not receive the vaccine “went crazy" and became highly active and agitated when injected with cocaine.

Crystal explained that while other vaccines have been in development for nicotine, cocaine and heroin, researchers have not been able to generate enough antibodies against the addictive substances to be considered effective.

Crystal believes that the cocaine vaccine will be ready for testing in humans in about two years. He explained that further testing still needs to be done in mice, rats and monkeys to make sure the vaccine is safe. And he acknowledgesd: “This looks terrific but humans are not big mice.”

He explained that if this vaccine is eventually proved successful in humans, the technology could also be used against other addictive substances such as nicotine and heroin.

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. tiffiny rogers

    I really don't know how to feel about this article...cocaine vaccine, really!?!? To me it seems like a reward for bad judgment. I work in a emergency dept & I see people high on different drugs all the time, but a vaccine...really!?!?

    January 5, 2011 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • DKB

      The point of the article is that the vaccine prevents the high, not just the unwanted side effects. Think about it this way, if every American were vaccinated against cocaine, and no one ever got high off it, there would be no demand to sell it anymore, and we would at least get 1 drug off the streets. Will it prevent people determined to get high off anything? No, but it might help people wanting to quit, or from people ever getting addicted in the first place.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse |
    • Larry Lupus

      bad judgement? Are you really that stupid? It's called addiction you idiot

      January 5, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
    • J

      How are they being rewarded?

      January 5, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
    • speedro

      What reward? You may need to re-read the article.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
    • John K

      Once vaccinated, an addict can never again get high or receive any pleasure from cocaine, no matter how much they consume. How is that a reward?

      January 5, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • jcm52

      I don't see what the reward is. The vaccine prevents the drug from causing the pleasurable benefits (and presumably also prevents the negative effects). If I have no desire to take cocaine, getting the vaccine does nothing for me. If I have a desire to take it, getting the vaccine means I have no desire to take it. So the person who makes the bad judgment that leads to the addiction then gets a chance to start over without the addiction. How is that a reward for bad judgment? It's just a reduction in the penalty.

      A lot of people try to get treatment and eventually fall back into it. Imagine if this were available to all of them. The relapse rate would effectively go to zero (assuming it's effective in humans). That would make a huge difference in the amount of damage this drug causes.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:47 | Report abuse |
    • Aezel

      Uh.....you work in an emergency department huh? I hope I never find myself at your mercy in that emergency room if you aren't smart enough to understand this article.

      The point is, you could vaccinate the entire population of the U.S. against cocaine, so nobody would ever have a reason to use it or get addicted to it. Someone who was already addicted could be vaccinated and would be unable to continue their use for any reason essentially.

      January 5, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Sometimes I worry that I've a touch of ADD... Then I see comments like yours and realize all is well.

      January 5, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse |
    • 101 teacher

      I also think we should open more rehabs and quit spemding money on research. All the rehabs in Galveston Tx were demolished during the last hurricane and never reopened If we see more people walking around drug free and setting good examples it will eventually push the job position away and change our entire world

      January 20, 2011 at 10:30 | Report abuse |
  2. Marco

    So if you stop the craving for one drug, cocaine in this case, won't a person just replace it with another drug like heroin for example. Then that person is addicted to an even stronger drug that has a 3% chance of recovery.

    January 5, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • THX

      No. While there are some personalities that are addictive, those folks are the minority and are just as likely to get addicted to FarmVille as another drug. Curing one addiction doesn't automatically leave someone open to another one. Someone who quits smoking cigarettes doesn't necessarily turn to alcoholism, for example. Same holds true with a cocaine addict.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse |
    • Tommas

      You really live in a sheltered box don't you.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse |
  3. bsitz

    But yet its a schedule 2 drug while marijuana is schedule 1. Marijuana is a gateway drug, to drugs that are LESS powerful? Wake up people!

    January 5, 2011 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      The Schedule I versus Schedule II distinction has nothing to do with how powerful the drug is. Any widely-abused drug that does not have an accepted medical use (as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services) is automatically classified as Schedule I, regardless of its "power".

      January 5, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse |
    • Fred Evil

      True Jeff, but Schedule I status requires that the substance have "No accepted medical uses.' Cannabis has been accepted for medical use in more than 1/4 of American states. The status is no longer warranted (indeed, it NEVER was). Cannabis should have been removed from Schedule I decades ago. But the rabid Narco-Nazi lobby wants their jobs, NEEDS their jobs, science and truth be damned!

      January 5, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  4. aa

    injecting mice with yayo sounds like a good time to me

    January 5, 2011 at 09:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Zlad Marinowsky


      February 6, 2011 at 06:30 | Report abuse |
  5. hopeful

    As someone who has witnessed cocaine almost destroy my family, I am very hopeful that this vaccine is successful. Addicts don't crave ALL drugs and don't ENJOY having an addiction so its completely nuts and unrealistic to think they would seek out a different drug. If that was the case, they would avoid the vaccine altogether.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. THX

    I find it ironic that someone named "Crystal" is working on a vaccine for cocaine. Good news though.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Justin

      Haha, I was thinking the same thing.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:07 | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      I picked up on that, too :)) But you are right, it really is good news, if it works.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
  7. mtheresa

    Does this mean that I can do all the delicious cocaine I want and NOT worry about addiction? This is truly a greater day than when the polio vaccine was discovered! Thank you Science, I'm off to roll up a $20!

    January 5, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dan

      Understand what it does first. You will NOT get any high or feeling from this drug with the vaccine. It will do nothing.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • Rupert

      You may want to read the article again and pay attention this time..

      January 5, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
    • mtheresa

      yeah dan, listen to Rupert and pay attention!

      January 5, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
    • John K

      Less snorting, more reading. This vaccine prevents you from ever again feeling any pleasurable effects from cocaine.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • jcm52

      And if you've had the vaccine, you might as well be snorting powdered sugar cause you won't get high.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
    • AScientist

      From your sarcasm, it looks like you are saying that science shouldn't be done to potentially help the otherwise lifelong addicted cocaine user.

      January 5, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse |
  8. M. Millares

    Great! I can't wait for trials on human babies. Sign your kids up.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lillian

      No kidding.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:17 | Report abuse |
  9. Clete

    It should be tested on criminals.

    January 5, 2011 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • speedro

      Good idea. It should be given to people when they come into jail. Jails are full of cocaine users, when they get out, addiction would be gone. It would slowly clean people up and it would not be a violation of their rights because they are in jail.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  10. Sridevi

    Good job. I wish something like this should be invented for caffeine too..

    January 5, 2011 at 11:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Andrewaslfgdgs

    I want to drug animals for a living. sign me up!

    January 5, 2011 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Stephanie

    this is really great news!

    January 5, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. speedro

    Ha ha ha. Dr. Crystal.

    January 5, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ryan B.

    Who is the target patient for this? Will you vaccinate children (substance abusers are for the most part made in adolescence)? Wait until they're 18? What if an addict "consent" to this after a binge, in the ER or psych ER, and then later decides they didn't want it after all?

    January 5, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John K

      Only addicts in treatment who consent to the vaccine would be vaccinated. As far as not being reversible if an addict later changes their mind, I think that's the only point and benefit to this vaccine. You can't reverse it.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
    • anon

      John K...how many vaccines do you know of that can be reversed? It's a vaccine not a vasectomy.

      January 5, 2011 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
  15. Nicole

    Am I the only one that can see this being harmful? A teenager gets vaccinated, and then a couple years later in college, tries the drug. No effect. Does some more. Where's the high? A little more. Wham-o, a kid dead of an overdose. They will keep taking more until they die, because they're not feeling the "high", but the body is still getting the rapid heart rate, etc. Or does that not happen either?

    January 5, 2011 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      I think the total overall affect it greatly reduced, both mental and physical. The stimulating effects of cocaine almost completely result from things happening in the brain. This vaccine prevents the drug from crossing the into the brain so most of the effect is gone. Even if there were a non euphoric physical effect, it wouldn't sneak up on someone and kill them, it would probably feel more like taking too much caffeine, or a shot of adrenaline. Most people wouldn't consider these very pleasant or addictive, especially considering the price a user would pay for cocaine for those effects.

      January 5, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
    • cmariem

      Well in order for the teenager to get this vaccine, he would have to have been an addict and in rehab at some time. I'm sure if they ever perfect this vaccination enough to give to people in rehab, they will address all of the risks before administering it. After that, it is the teenager's own fault and responsibility to not do the drug.

      I highly doubt they will just give this to kids when they turn eighteen. I think this is going to be used solely for rehabilitation measures.

      January 5, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse |
  16. MJB

    Oh goodie, now besides the public paying for all the ER visits addicts have, and all the harm they do to people getting their drugs. Now we can also pay for the vaccines. People are still going to use for the high. Giving a vaccine will not stop them. they want that high and will kill for it.

    January 5, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. tpe

    this wont stop people they will get other ideas to make the vaccine ineffective there are people in that buisness that are as smart or probly even smarter than many scientist that are trying to make this vaccine. it will not work

    January 5, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Dale

    Need A Stupid vaccine !!

    January 5, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Baby

    This is not clear:-So, the vaccine would prevent the addiction as well as the 'high'? I am thinking that If all it does is prevent addiction then people would feel more confiident using it because they can get the high without fear of addiction. I still see the benefits in that someone who is not addicted will not use too much ot it but I think something about this unclear.

    January 5, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      Re-read the article. It states that the antibodies break down the cocaine molecules before they enter the brain. No cocaine in the brain means no high. The article also stated that vaccinated mice show no physical effects when injected with cocaine. So it's not effecting the brain or any other part of the body. So the vaccine makes cocaine useless to the user. No high, no energy, nothing. Just money spent and nothing gained from it.

      January 5, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
  20. DjSnoopy

    Welbutrin has been shown to be a good therapy for those addicted to cocaine. There have also been very good results with certain kinds of kundalini meditation- kirtan kriya in specific. And, daily meditation reduces the need for external substances in order to feel good.

    January 5, 2011 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Rearview

    Just kill the drug addicts issue will eventually work its way out of the gene pool.

    January 5, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Robert

    An intriguiging idea. Unfortunately, I don't believe this will fully help current addicts. Because this works by training the immune system to intercept cocaine in the bloodstream, it will serve to prevent a new high but will not stop the cravings to get high that someone already addicted would feel. Those people already addicted would continue to crave the drug, but be unable to get the high to curb those cravings. I suspect many addicts will try taking larger and larger doses to try to overcome the immune system's ability to filter the cocaine.

    Where this would prove most useful is in preventing new addictions. If most/all potential new users were vaccinated at an early age, they probably will not develop an addiction and thus the next generation of addicts would be eliminated.

    January 5, 2011 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. rob

    great concept
    i want to be part of the study.
    the part that does not recieve the vaccine

    January 5, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RBZL

    "Cocaine is a powerful addictive stimulant"


    Cocaine's a helluva drug!

    January 5, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Pull my finger

    Good...thats means more for me!! *SNNOORRRRRRRTTT* AAAHHHH!!!

    January 5, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Pull my finger

    I used to have a drug problem...then I got a good paying job!! *SNORT*

    January 5, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Do What's Right

    I wonder what else this can be applied to. How about food? Can it make food taste bad so I will lose weight?

    January 5, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. bostongye

    Hopefully it works. A good side effect is its going to hurt the drug trade a bit. Hopefully they work at developing the vaccines for heroin, which from what I gather much more addictive.

    January 5, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred Evil

      But NEITHER is as addictive as tobacco, and NEITHER are as deadly as tobacco.

      January 5, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  29. jimboe

    I like cocaine. Keep this vaccine away from me.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Ddubbya

    hmmm...sounds like counter productive, to me. If an addict has the "jones", they will seek out more and more, and usually go to something stronger – just to get the high.
    I'm a recovering addict that has been clean from blow for 14 yrs. I did it cold turkey. Very little withdraw, besides being cranky for a while. My point is that if you want to quit, you will. If you don't, you won't.

    Coc isn't smack. The two should not be confused.

    January 5, 2011 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Swimmer23

    Smoke cannabis. It's an excellent EXIT drug for cocaine and heroin.

    January 5, 2011 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. They Want Your Mind

    This has got to be the first vaccine created in order to control one's behavior. I am somewhat intrigued and also unsettled by this. It is amazing to me that one can potentially create a vaccine for any invader of the body. Creating vaccines to ward off addictive drugs would completely change the social and political landscape of the world (if used on a widespread basis). Within one generation of administration of such vaccines the entire world would change. Just think about how much money changes hand due to drugs. Just think about how many police officers we hire to deal with drugs and its related crime. We would save tons of money health care. "Rogue nations" and dangerous cartels would loose a large source of income. While this all intriguing, part of me wants the freedom to get high if I want to. Maybe alcohol is next? What else can we vaccinate against?

    January 5, 2011 at 23:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. producerman

    Stop giving coke to mice. End of problem.

    January 6, 2011 at 07:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. henry

    I didn't know cocaine use is mice was a big problem.

    January 6, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. mouse

    it sure is

    January 6, 2011 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ybs

    Interestingly, the warning label says - this vaccine is addictive! 🙂

    January 7, 2011 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 101 teacher

    I think that we are all forgetting that healing an addict requires a spiritual change. The entire point of quitting is learning to change your emviromemt not to lean on another drug to get rid of your problems and deal with life in the morally correct way instead of just masking it everyday Healing addiction means following a set of rules that were here a long time before we were and cocaine was. That is just my experience

    January 20, 2011 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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