A Cocaine Treatment That Boosts Cocaine Consumption

In October I discussed a study that found a cocaine "vaccine," which is aimed at neutralizing the drug's psychoactivity, was mostly ineffective at getting users to cut back on their consumption. On Tuesday The Washington Post ran a weirdly late story about the same study in which the lead author offers a decidedly more negative spin than he did last fall:

The vaccine, called TA-CD, shows promise but could also be dangerous; some of the addicts participating in a study of the vaccine started doing massive amounts of cocaine in hopes of overcoming its effects, according to Thomas R. Kosten, the lead researcher on the study, which was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in October.

"After the vaccine, doing cocaine was a very disappointing experience for them," said Kosten, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Nobody overdosed, but some of them had 10 times more cocaine coursing through their systems than researchers had encountered before, according to Kosten. He said some of the addicts reported to researchers that they had gone broke buying cocaine from multiple drug dealers, hoping to find a variety that would get them high.

The headline over the story misleadingly says, "Testing of Cocaine Vaccine Shows It Does Not Fully Blunt Cravings for the Drug." In fact, as I noted in my original post, the vaccine does not "blunt cravings" at all. It is not designed to do so; instead it is designed to stimulate an immune system response that causes antibodies to bond with cocaine molecules, thereby making them too big to pass the blood-brain barrier. In this study, less than two-fifths of the subjects who received the vaccine had what the researchers considered an adequate immune response, and only half of those subjects reduced their cocaine use by 50 percent or more. Among the subjects with the strongest immune responses, 45 percent of urine samples tested negative for cocaine, compared to 35 percent for the rest of the subjects (weak responders and placebo recipients). Using that measure, you could say the vaccine boosted the success rate by 28 percent, which sounds impressive. But only one out of five subjects who got the vaccine substantially reduced his cocaine use, and some ended up consuming more than they were before the study.

Even if the vaccine worked perfectly, cocaine cravings would be unaffected; they just couldn't be satisfied anymore. Hence this approach probably will appeal only to highly motivated addicts who are committed to quitting. That's assuming its use is voluntary; as I said in October, the prospect of mandatory anti-drug vaccination is not far-fetched given our government's generally coercive approach to illegal drug users. And this study suggests that such forcible treatment, even leaving aside the violation of liberty, could well leave the "patients" worse off, spending more money and consuming more cocaine while enjoying it less.

[Thanks to Jamie Alford for the tip.]

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  • ||

    Fun fact: One of the early uses for cocaine was as a treatment for morphine addiction.

    It will be awesome if this new "vaccine" ends up becoming an illegal drug in a similar way.

  • Joe M||

    Based on the effects, I find that highly unlikely. This entire thing is creepy as hell. Why not develop a drug to treat the cravings, rather than the effects? It seems only sensible.

  • ||

    Or just let people do drugs instead of baby-sitting them. There's always that option, rarely tried, that just might work.

  • Joe M||

    Oh, of course, I just meant as an option for someone that might actually want to quit.

  • Robert||

    The drug that treats the cravings for cocaine is...cocaine.

  • WTF ||

    Fun fact: It will be awesome if they invented a "vaccine" for your stupidity. It may even cure libertarianism in a similar way.

  • ||

    Hurr-durr

  • WTF ||

    Add the Hurr-durr speech impediment to your vaccine.

  • anonymous||

    If they invent and mandate a true vaccine for stupidity, the progressive cause may experience a terminal lesson in unintended consequences.

  • WTF||

    anonymous,you really are a bit of a bore.

  • hmm||

    Well hell. Back to meth for me.

  • hmm||

    Well hell. Back to meth for me.

  • WTF ||

    I think you just took two hits.

  • ||

    The CIA must be back in the Cocaine business. Gotta move product and make that cash!!

  • ¢||

    PLAGUE OF STUTTERING VAMPIRES HITS HOUSTON

  • Jason Kuznicki||

    Obviously we need to find a treatment that makes cocaine even more pleasurable. Consumption will decline, because people will need less to get high.

    It's called demand reduction, people. It works.

  • Hacha Cha||

    people will still get high if they take enough, unfortunately they will be getting way more cardiotoxic effects than if they were doing regular doses.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Or just let people do drugs instead of baby-sitting them. There's always that option, rarely tried, that just might work.

    I image you already know the answer to this, but for those who do not, two reasons:

    1. It would result in a crash of the prison industrial complex and a reduction in governmental control. The former would put thousands and thousands of innocent (heh!) law enforcement types out of work. The latter is not something that most of our political class can countenance.

    2. It wouldn't stop people from abusing the drugs, ruining their health, neglecting their relationships and duties, and otherwise just being rotten useless bums. There are many people who see this as a bad thing in and of itself, and many others who will seize on the neglected duties as bad enough to require massive societal intervention.

    The second bit could conceivably be addressed with various support programs and charitable help agencies, but the first item is the deal breaker there.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Oh, oh. Does Episiarch know about this stuff?

  • WTF ||

    "various support programs and charitable help agencies" The libertarian solution to every problem.

  • Joe M||

    *troll warning*

  • ||

    It wouldn't stop people from abusing the drugs, ruining their health, neglecting their relationships and duties, and otherwise just being rotten useless bums.

    But neither does the current regime, so that's not really in the minus column for legalization.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    "various support programs and charitable help agencies" The libertarian solution to every problem.

    As opposed to what? Oh yeah, I remember: smash down the "victim"'s door, shoot his dog, throw him in jail, take no responsibility if he gets raped, fail (even in prison) to prevent him from getting more drugs, and when you finally release him label him as a felon so that his life can suck even more.

    Yeah, that's real compassionate, there.

    But it gets worse because as a side effect of all this, the "victim"'s duties are still neglected, and there is a thriving, very lucrative black market which settles its internal arguments with guns instead of lawyers, and protects itself from the police by corrupting as many of them as possible.

    Great solution.

  • WTF||

    "As opposed to what? Oh yeah, I remember: smash down the "victim"'s door, shoot his dog, throw him in jail, take no responsibility if he gets raped, fail (even in prison) to prevent him from getting more drugs, and when you finally release him label him as a felon so that his life can suck even more"

    The what: I don't give a crap about his door and neither does he. I would never advocate shooting a dog. Yes, I would put him in jail or the choice of rehab but only if other serious crimes were involved. You can't prevent addicts from getting more drugs because it is the nature of the disease. He would have the choice of the felon label if rehab was not fulfilled.

  • ||

    "The what: I don't give a crap about his door and neither does he."

    I need troll bait to lead WTF back to the Daily Kos blog where he/she belongs. That way, the ones that love to disrespect private property can have their own little circle jerk festival and rub each other and George Soros with "the lotion" while discussing their latest wealth distribution scheme and lament about the prosperity of other people. (Kudos to Greg Gutfeld and Red Eye Robot Theater.)

  • ||


    And this study suggests that such forcible treatment, even leaving aside the violation of liberty, could well leave the "patients" worse off, spending more money and consuming more cocaine while enjoying it less.

    so all they've really done is synthesized prohibition?

  • Joe M||

    Hmm, maybe they're going to add chemical "vaccines" for every illicit drug to the water suppply and then legalize them. That'll show us.

  • ||

    Ever notice that the same type of people who often strive for political office are the same who cannot derive any pleasure out of drugs, and remember when they tried them in their youth and they went completely insane and lost it? I guess the moral of the story is, when you are already a loon and a narcissist who cannot derive any pleasure at all out of anything except for total and undeserved control over the lives of everyone else, you should avoid drugs at all cost. The problem is that all of those narcissist assume that everyone else cannot handle drug use for pleasure or any other aspect of their lives, thus their obsession with control. My vote is that we put something in the drinking water in DC to sterilize and neutralize all of the narcissist wack jobs already in power.

  • anonymous||

    Wait a second, you've just hit on something -- that pleasure that people feel when they dominate others is a biochemical reaction. Maybe we can invent a vaccine to keep people from getting drunk on power!

  • mother of invention||

    "Maybe we can invent a vaccine to keep people from getting drunk on power!" It is already manufactured and you may know people who have it naturally. It's called estrogen.

  • FrenchHash||

    Well, the cocaine habit is mighty bad
    Worst damn habit that you've ever had
    Hey,Hey, Honey take a whiff on me

    Well, I love my whiskey and I love my gin
    But the way I love cocaine is a goddamn sin
    Hey,Hey, Honey take a whiff on me
    Take a whiff on me
    Take a whiff on me
    All you 'rounders take a whiff on me
    Hey, Hey, Honey take a whiff on me

  • L'oreille||

    A D E A A A D E A
    Funny about the notes

  • orgasmo femenino||

    If it is voluntary for all who are decided to quit drugs would be great the problem is that most addicts return to consume when they are feeling bad maybe the better could be to try the TA-DC with psychological sessions.

  • fine crusher||

    Wait a second, you've just hit on something -- that pleasure that people feel when they dominate others is a biochemical reaction. Maybe we can invent a vaccine to keep people from getting drunk on power!

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