Fentanyl vaccine – expert comment


A new study published in Neuropsychopharmacology has shown that a vaccine against fentanyl could prevent cravings for the drug, after it was tested in rats. 

Researchers created a vaccine designed to stop rats from craving fentanyl by triggering an immune response against the drug. To test the vaccine, rats addicted to fentanyl were dosed twice over a three-week period with either the experimental vaccine or two medications currently used to treat substance addiction. 

Rats that were given the vaccine were more likely to choose food over fentanyl for 15 weeks after being administered with the vaccine.

The authors suggest that the vaccine could be used to decrease dangerous drug-taking behaviour. Reacting to the findings, Catherine McGowan, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

“Vaccinating against fentanyl is not the answer to reducing health problems linked to drug use.

“Quite apart from the lack of clinical evidence in support of 'vaccinations against addiction', the social and behavioural sciences tell us that humans make consumption choices for multiple social, as well as physical benefits.

“Reducing the desire to consume one substance does not obviate the need or desire to use drugs for pleasure, or for reducing physical or psychological pain.

“The solutions to fentanyl overdose reside in policy change, against prohibition and towards harm reduction. People will use drugs. They choose to do so for multiple benefits.

“Complex social practices, such as the use of drugs, can’t be reduced to simple, singular and pharmaceutical solutions. We need to trust more in people to make harm reducing choices, and in policies which enable these, and not in vaccines as a solution to bad policies.”

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