Future of anti-addiction vaccines

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2005:118:177-85.


The medical rational for using anti-drug antibodies in the serum as a treatment is to reduce drug levels in the brain and to bind drug before it enters the brain. Drugs of abuse are small molecules that can readily cross the blood brain barrier, while antibodies are larger molecules that cannot get into the brain. Thus, any drug that is bound to antibody also cannot cross the blood brain barrier and cannot enter the brain. Active anti-drug vaccines stimulate the body to makes its own antibodies, but the small size of abused drugs prevents them from stimulating an immune response. Thus, individuals do not ordinarily produce antibodies to abused drugs, and vaccines to stimulate antibodies are made by chemically linking these abused drugs to toxins such as cholera toxin. Alternatively, passive immunotherapy uses monoclonal antibodies that are generated in a laboratory and then administered via intravenous injection. Antibodies can be used to treat drug overdose; to reduce drug use relapse; or to protect certain at risk populations who have not yet become drug dependent. The advantages of anti-addiction vaccines are that antibodies target the drug, not the drug's sites of action in the brain and antibody binding inactivates the drug. These vaccines can complement behavioral and other medical therapies with minimal side effects and are not addictive like some chemical agonists. Technology advances in manufacturing and delivery systems will improve future anti-addiction vaccines, but social acceptance of anti-addiction vaccines will depend on substance abuse program staff and the families of substance abusers, who have some values that oppose medical solutions to addictive diseases and view addictions as moral problems.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / trends*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Vaccines / therapeutic use*


  • Vaccines