“The combination against mumps, chickenpox, smoking and coke, please”

Children in great britain will be vaccinated against drug addiction in the future

Good intentions don’t help much – what’s forbidden is what makes it hot. But even if all drugs were legal, not everyone was hooked – some people just don’t like drugs. British scientists now believe that children can be immunized against drugs in the same way as against infectious diseases.

It sounds like the austrian joke: "dear mother, we have been vaccinated against earthquakes today". But the independent reports in its sunday edition that english ministers are considering this very approach to prevent youngsters from pursuing a career in drugs: just as infants are now immunized against rubella, mumps and measles by serial vaccination and then told not to get them for the rest of their lives, a disinterest in nicotine, heroin and cocaine is to be literally inculcated at an early age. The strong reactions that normally occur to these drugs, leading to addiction, were not seen in those vaccinated against them as children. And if it does not "flashes" and "threatens", then there is little reason to take drugs.

The pharmaceutical industry is already working on suitable vaccines and aims to have them on the market within two months, according to the independent. The vaccination campaign is the brainchild of the "brain science, addiction and drugs project". A driving force behind the project is professor david nutt, chair of psychopharmacology at the university of bristol, who is also a senior member of the advisory council on the misuse of drugs:

People could be vaccinated against drugs at birth as you are against measles. You could say cocaine is more dangerous than measles, for example. It is important that there is a debate on this ie. This is a huge topic – addiction and smoking are major causes of premature death.

Although england is not exactly known as a drug stronghold, crack addiction is increasing at an alarming rate and drug addiction is costing the economy vast sums of money per year. The independent talks of over 12 trillion english pounds, but leaves open whether this means the entire world economy or just england. The british biotechnology company xenova has already tested an anti-coke vaccine in which 58 percent of patients remained cocaine-free after three months and 42 percent after six months.

Unfortunately, the comparative numbers of untreated cocaine abusers are not known, and the number of those tested, 22, is still too small to make statistical statements, but even those who have relapsed report that they no longer react as strongly to cocaine. Xenova is now working on vaccines against heroin and ecstasy, while the anti-smoking vaccine is already in the second stage of clinical trials.

So far, vaccination is only intended for adults who are already on drugs. In children it could have completely different effects. In addition to vaccination, the british government is therefore also hoping for a newly discovered virus that splits cocaine in the body ("mommy, the viruses have eaten our coke!"), but is aware that there will be no miracle weapon against drug addiction in the near future.

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