The search for vaccines against street drugs

BETWEEN 2000 and 2015 half a million people in America alone died of drug overdoses—mostly of opioids, a class of addictive, generally synthetic painkillers related to morphine. On August 8th Tom Price, the secretary for health and human services in America, raised the possibility of a vaccine to prevent addiction—something he described it as “an incredibly exciting prospect”. Experts have cautioned that such treatments are nowhere near reality. But research is going on. A study published in this week’s Nature, for instance, describes the search for a vaccine against fenethylline—a drug particularly popular in parts of the Middle East.

Fenethylline is a stimulant, rather than a painkiller. It is a combination of two drugs, rather than being a pure substance. One component is amphetamine, itself a well-known stimulant with a large black market. The other is theophylline, which is prescribed for respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive…Continue reading

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