Could This Vaccine for Fentanyl Help End the Opioid Crisis?

A research team at the University of Houston believes they have developed a new vaccine for fentanyl. Could it be the end of the opioid crisis?

Photo of author
Claire Conway

A team of researchers at the University of Houston believes they may have found a way to block fentanyl from entering the brain.

Where It All Began

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is considered to be 50-100 times stronger than morphine. It was introduced as a pain medication in the 60s, but it quickly turned into a street drug. Overdoses have increased dramatically in the last few years. Between 2019 and 2020, deaths from synthetic opioids, excluding methadone, increased by more than 50%.

This increase was caused by an increase in the illicit manufacturing of the drug. Fentanyl is laced with other illegal drugs, increasing their potency and decreasing their cost. A fatal dosage of fentanyl is two milligrams, depending on how large a person is and how much of a tolerance they have for the drug.

150 people overdose and die every day from synthetic opioids.

A Spark of Hope

A research team at the University of Houston believes they have developed a new vaccine for fentanyl. The vaccine would affect the drug’s affect on the brain, eliminating the feelings of euphoria it creates. The researchers published their research findings in the journal Pharmaceutics

The study they conducted revealed that although the antibodies generated by the vaccine target fentanyl, they do not minimize the effects of other drugs that are needed for potential pain management.

The study was originally conducted on rats, so it does have limitations. The goal is for it to curb the addiction of those who have become dependent on the drug, but the vaccine will not be effective if someone suddenly overdoses. The researchers have expressed their intention to move on to human trials in the next few months.

Immunized male and female rats successfully produced anti-FEN antibodies that were effective in neutralizing the euphoric sensation that results from taking fentanyl.

Colin Haile is the study’s lead author and is also a research associate professor of psychology at UH and the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES). At the university’s press release, Colin emphasized the significance of the results of the study and how it could potentially provide a long-term solution to “a very serious problem plaguing society for years.”

“Our vaccine is able to generate anti-fentanyl antibodies that bind to the consumed fentanyl and prevent it from entering the brain, allowing it to be eliminated out of the body via the kidneys. Thus, the individual will not feel the euphoric effects and can ‘get back on the wagon’ to sobriety,” he said.

In a government post for National Fentanyl Awareness Day, Anne Milgram, an administrator at the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, explained the scope of the deterioration of society caused by fentanyl. She goes on to encourage people to spread the word about the dangers of the drug to prevent overdoses and poisonings.

“Fentanyl is everywhere. From large metropolitan areas to rural America, no community is safe from this poison.  We must take every opportunity to spread the word to prevent fentanyl-related overdose death and poisonings from claiming scores of American lives every day,” she said.

This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks and syndicated Our Woven Journey.

Featured Image Credit: Rido | Canva

Table of Contents