Our Amazing Anti-Nicotine Vaccine Is Slightly More Effective Than a Placebo!

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If the unimpressive early performance of Cytos Biotechnology's anti-nicotine "vaccine" is any indication, we may not have to face the Orwellian possibilities of such drug use preventatives anytime soon. In Phase II clinical trials, Earth Times reports, 40 percent of subjects receiving the vaccine—which is supposed to stimulate production of antibodies that bind with nicotine molecules, making them too large to pass the blood-brain barrier—"were able to quit smoking for nearly six months." By comparison, 31 percent of the subjects who received the placebo "were able to stop smoking for 24 weeks"—i.e., nearly six months. Granted, these trials are intended mainly to demonstrate safety, but an effectiveness only slightly better than that of a placebo does not match the hopes of drug warriors who dream of taking their fight to our bloodstreams, although it may be enough to win FDA approval.

Notice, too, how the lead researcher misrepresents the way the vaccine is designed to work. He says smokers who receive it "don't feel that they have to take a cigarette to feel better," implying that the product somehow eliminates their cravings. But even if it were 100 percent effective, it would not make the cravings go away; it would just make it impossible to satisfy them.

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  1. The perfect fundamentalist vaccine: You still crave, but can never satisfy. Like a permanent hair shirt for the addict.

    I can’t wait for Santorum, et. al., to try allocating funds to study a vaccine against gay marriage….with his understanding of science, it is almost a given.

  2. Neuromancer, anyone? Maybe Gibson can sue.

  3. No vaccine in the world is ever going to break a habit. There could be corn tassels in the cigarettes, and many smokers would still light them up and go through their familiar routine.

  4. Isn’t nicotine too small of a molecule to make a suitable target for an antibody?

    It would be like trying to us a pipe wrench to hold a pin.

  5. Nicotine antagonist. Hardly a new concept, isn’t that what Naltrexone does for opiods? And, it seems, like Naltrexone, meets with limited success. While it may be true that an antagonist may not break an addiction, how can one resent the introduction of something new that may provide another tool in assisting one break that addiction?

  6. yeah, but the people who got the vaccine were able to QUIT smoking (for nearly six months), but the ones with the placebo were only able to STOP smoking (for 24 weeks)

    No agenda here. Nosirre, Bob.

  7. Nicotine is a pretty decent sized molecule – about the size of a base in our DNA. Antibodies can bind and recognize very small structures, for example most of the patterns of molecules that antibodies in our immune system recognize are only a few amino acids in size – about the size of nicotine.

  8. Dave Barry once noted that if smoking were absolutely guaranteed to give you hemmorhoids within one year, nobody would smoke.

    The context, of course, is that smoking is a crap shoot. It kills some people young and others, like Woody Allen’s dad, it leaves alone until finally, at age 98 they succumb to its effects.

  9. Smoking is an associative habit. Certainly the cravings are real enough but it is the coffee and cigarette in the morning, the relaxing smoke after a good meal, the cigarette with a beer in a bar or at a party with your friends, and yes, the stereotypical smoke after a great romp in the hay that make it tough to give up.

    Unlike most other substances cigarettes are intimately tied to your daily routine and in most cases completely associated with relaxation, socializing, creativity, escape from frustration or anger, and most of the pleasantries of life that we enjoy.

    That is why it’s tough to break the habit. But for a lot of former smokers once the day comes when it really is time to quit, it just isn’t as hard as it was all those other times when you weren’t serious about quitting.

    That’s why I don’t buy into the addiction crap. As Jacob said in his book, if smoking really were addicting how could there be 40 million ex-smokers out there in America?

  10. That’s why I don’t buy into the addiction crap. As Jacob said in his book, if smoking really were addicting how could there be 40 million ex-smokers out there in America?

    Because addiction isn’t an unescapable phenomenon.

  11. Also, Sullum seems to have not read the entire press release(PDF).

    The findings are,

    Treatment Result
    Placebo 25/80 – 31%
    Antibody – low dose 17/53 – 32%
    Antibody – med dose 17/53 – 32%
    Antibody – high dose 30/53 – 57%

  12. That’s why I don’t buy into the addiction crap. As Jacob said in his book, if smoking really were addicting how could there be 40 million ex-smokers out there in America?

    Because addiction means you want something some portion of society believes you shouldn’t have or want.

  13. In a new twist, here’s a “drug” that will actually increase the efficiency of your body’s use of a particular drug of choice.

    And it has the side benefit of finding a use for a really, really, annoying weed.

  14. TWC
    “There’s no such thing as addiction” talk makes me boil. I don’t see how anyone who has had the personal experience of loosing a loved one to addiction (and I should have thought that would include just about everyone), actually watching them trade their life and their future day by day to their habit, could possibly deny the disease model of addiction.

    PLEASE don’t mistake my words for “addicts are helpless” or such. Addiction is a matter of behavior and sane adults determine their behavior by choice (addiction is not insanity). But you are suggesting that every year thousands of people, who must choose between their comfortable, loving, and productive life they’ve lead in the past, and poverty, treachery, and endless misery of addiction, choose the latter because what? Too many educated, successful people succumb to addiction to credibly suggest that they are all just stupid, weak, or lazy.

    As for myself, I have in the past, and in most cases still, use/enjoy/play around with; Alcohol, cigarettes, pot, cocaine, gambling and sex. Now in the case of pot, at one time my habit was so out of control I used to go to sleep at night, wake up in the morning, and keep me gong through the day. However, whenever I ran out of money, or couldn’t find a source, I got along without. All that needed to happen to get my pot habit under control was to make the decision to do so.

    Cigarettes were an entirely different matter. Once nicotine got it’s hooks into me, there was no question in my mind that I had an honest to goodness addiction. Of course the nice thing about cigarettes is you can support your habit and still hold a down a job and be a tax-paying citizen. When I finally made a serious commitment to quit, it was an ordeal that lasted three months after my last smoke. I’ve been tobacco free for five years now. The thing that keeps me that was is the memory of my last cigarette, it was so good I knew it was an all or nothing thing for me.

  15. Sorry if this is a bit off-topic, but I need to rant.

    The Washington Post has an opinion article today titled “The Right Drug to Target” by some geezer drug warrior fuckhead. For some strange reason I can’t find it online on Washingtonpost.com Perhaps they’re embarassed about what a piece of shit it is.

    Anyway, the old goat rails against sweet Mary Jane. He pulls out the tired arguments we’ve heard countless times before by the propoganda machine.

    But something struck me.. this bullshit about pot being SO MUCH MORE POTENT then the schwag the long-hairs smoked back in the 60’s and 70’s.. isn’t this basically a gimmick to give the boomers a free pass for their past behavior?

    The message, to me, is basically this: “Yeah, you smoked dope back in the day.. but the stuff out now IS NOT THE SAME. It’s dangerous this time around! Talk to your kids!”

    And I have a question to any boomer out there.. what were you actually smoking back then? Was it really that weak?

  16. dead elvis

    Thanks for the link, kudzu is a crop even I could grow.

  17. Mr. Nice Guy-I asked my dad the same question. His response was something like, “I resent the hell out of that. Not just because it’s bullshit, but because I resent the notion that we didn’t know what the good stuff was.”

  18. But you are suggesting that every year thousands of people, who must choose between their comfortable, loving, and productive life they’ve lead in the past, and poverty, treachery, and endless misery of addiction, choose the latter because what?

    Warren, you’d have to ask them. The fact is, though, that they make the choice, just like thousands of ex-addicts once made that choice, and now choose the opposite.

    As you admit in your experience with tobacco. For some reason, you made a decision to quit and stuck with it despite the aggravation. If the decision not to smoke is voluntary and real, then so is the decision to smoke.

  19. On a more scientific, and less policy-oriented note,

    I’ve often wondered why companies producing anti-smoking drugs don’t approach nicotine for what it really is: a neurotransmitter. It affects dopamine levels, this everyone knows. But the way it does so is to serve in place of acetylcholine. So isn’t it possible for an addicted brain to lower its aceylcholine levels? In my experience, I think it absolutely is…and that some people may not be able to ramp back up when they stop using nicotine. Thus, low dopamine levels, depression, fatigue, etc. that MAY NOT EVER GO AWAY. Scary stuff.

  20. I find it interesting that placebos were effective in 31 percent of smokers. Maybe they should market the placebos, which should, after all, have fewer side-effects.

  21. Mr Nice Guy,

    My aunt about three years ago was at a party where someone rolled a joint and passed it around. I gather she smoked quite a bit in her youth; in any case she had told my mom that she got buzzed, lightheaded, and ultimately naseous and ill in the wake of one toke.

    It could be that she wasn’t accustomed to smoke, so it’s not by any means scientific, but her distinct impression was that it was stronger than historically.

  22. reason needs to recruit some elderly potheads to give us the straight dope, as it were.

  23. I’m not that elderly, but I smoked plenty in the ’70s. It definitely did not affect me then to the degree that it does now. It might be attributable to youth, and loss thereof, but I think not.

  24. No vaccine in the world is ever going to break a habit. There could be corn tassels in the cigarettes, and many smokers would still light them up and go through their familiar routine.

    Last summer I spent about 3 months in an extremely unhealthy routine. I got up at 5am, commuted 3 hours round trip, and then self medicated with pot until 1 or 2 AM. I got roughly 3 hours of sleep a night, and I would go in 3 day cycles spaced between evenings spent crashing. During this entire part of my life I smoked cigarettes compulsively, and continued to do so afterwards.

    Two a few weeks ago, upon successful completion of an academic semester on my ADD medication, I tried LSD. When I tried mushrooms I smoked like a chimney, so I tried to do without cigarettes for the 8 hours I was on acid. I spent the next few days raving about how I quit cigarettes.

    I did a stream of consciousness exercize in the beginning of my trip, and wrote out several rationalizations for doing without a cigarette. Whenever I felt the need to smoke a cigarette I re-read what I wrote.

    The acid has since left my system, and I have had individual cigarettes. I have also spent a few nights drinking and smoking. Before taking acid I would not have been able to do this without falling into a pack-a-day cycle.

    When I finally made a serious commitment to quit, it was an ordeal that lasted three months after my last smoke. I’ve been tobacco free forab five years now. The thing that keeps me that was is the memory of my last cigarette, it was so good I knew it was an all or nothing thing for me.

    In my subjective time, that particular trip was just as long, but not an ordeal because I spent the time too stoned (on that CRAZY new stuff we get 😉 to leave my room.

  25. That’s the tough call for the Tobacco Lobby: Do they push to legalize LSD to make nicotine less addictive (in which case folks like myself might become occasional customers of tobacco)? Or is their business model totally dependent on the addicted customers?

  26. Here’s someone who actually looked into the matter of weed being more potent today:
    stronger weed.

    He has a couple of charts, and he shows that while average THC content is, indeed, about 6 times higher than a generation ago, that what most teenagers and other folks get is still about the same, low-THC content stuff that folks have smoked for a long time. I think what may happen with folks who have smoked in the 70’s and then now is that the weed they smoke today is probably higher-quality, but that most kids or people who get it ‘on the street’ don’t have as great an access to ‘the kind’. Older people tend to have ‘better’ connections to dedicated marijuana growers.

    But read the article if you’re really curious about the subject.

  27. Just to clarify, my point is not that cigarettes are not addictive. As I’ve said many times, anything that provides pleasure or relieves stress (not just drugs) can be the focus of an addiction. My point is that addiction is a pattern of behavior, not a chemical reaction. While a person’s physiological reaction to a substance obviously matters, addiction hinges on a lot more than that, including the social and contextual factors that The Wine Commonsewer describes.

    I have no problem using nicotine (mainly in the form of pipe tobacco and cigars) in moderation, and I do not worry that I will ever escalate to addiction. But I recognize that different people in different circumstances do have trouble using nicotine only occasionally and may have a very hard time giving it up completely. If such people find that something like this nicotine “vaccine” helps them quit, I have no problem with that. What I worry about (as I explained in the Seed article to which I linked) is the potential coercive uses of such products.

  28. I think that inducing the body to make antibodies to a molecule (nicotine) that looks a lot like a very important endogenous signalling molecule (acetylcholine) is a really dumb and shortsighted idea. The immune system isn’t always that preceise–antibodies can cross-react, which is why we get autoimmune disorders.

    This danger is compounded by the fact that blood-brain barrier is not static and absolute. It is subject to modulation by all sorts of disease states, stress, and some drugs, including nicotine (I did my dissertation on this). So even though the brain is usually an “immune priveleged” site (i.e., antibodies and white blood cells don’t usually get in), if this is compromised, the long-term effects of anti-nicotine antibodies in the brain could be rather nasty.

    This is all purely hypothetical, but it doesn’t seem to be a possibility that the developers of this drug have really addressed.

  29. One more thing: It’s true that the subjects who produced the most antibodies had the highest quit rate, which indicates that the product does work by stimulating an anti-nicotine immune response. But it’s still the case that the overall quit rate was not much higher for the treatment group than for the control group, suggesting that the “vaccine” would not make much difference for most smokers. That doesn’t mean the product is worthless, but it makes visions of inoculating the population against drug addiction even less plausible.

  30. Warren, sorry to make your blood boil. You seem to have broadened the discussion to encompass all addictions, which is okay.

    My personal opinion is that life-threatening addiction (as you define it) is often a manifestation of some other deeper emotional problem(s).

    I’m not just blowing esoteric smoke up your backside either, I’ve been around the block a few times.

    I agree that different people have different abilities to deal with problem behaviors and sometimes it’s a bitch to kick a monkey off your back. Sometimes the person just can’t or won’t do it, no matter what. And as you know, regardless of where on the addiction continuum you come down, everyone agrees that nobody can do it for you. It is, ultimately a choice. Yours.

  31. Mr Nice Guy, a friend of mine used to deal a lot of pot. He grew what we used to call genuine “Two Hit” stuff. Well, I guess you can figure out why we called it that.

    A chick I used to work with had some connection where she would get trash bags full of Acapulco Gold buds. It was good stuff.

    A lot of people used to put a drop or two of hash oil on a cigarette. Dude, that would knock you for a loop. We called it a rush and I hated it.

    I was not a pot commonsewer so I didn’t smoke much. It consistently made me so paranoid I would hear cops banging on the door and chicks making fun of my big Two Inch (and in those days pot was a serious bust). But I smoked enough to know that there was crap that wasn’t much more than sticks and seeds and there was great stuff.

    BTW, a lid of regular pot in those days was 10 bucks and Acapulco Gold was 15-20 (inflation adjusted price is about 85.00).

    I think most of the old time potheads who are all reformed now believe the hype that pot is much more potent now than it was then.

    On the flip side dude, some of my friends took some really deadbang serious drugs that nobody takes today. Like real LSD made by Timothy Leary’s disciples that sent you to cartoon-land for three days. They all survived it though.

  32. Wine Commonsewer:

    Dude, your post made my morning. I actually did a Homer.. head dropped back, eyes glazed.. aaallllllkkkkkkllll..

    Yeah, paranoia sucks. But I’m such a paranoid to begin with it actually loops around. It gets so extreme it becomes something unto itself, and easily observable. 🙂

  33. I’m the guy who did the research on “super-weed” linked in Lowdog’s post above.

    I’ve also been smoking cannabis products since 1972. The results of both the avaialble data and my own field research indicate that *extremely* potent cannabis products have always existed. Indeed, the most potent stuff I ever tried was some hash oil my friends brought back from Amsterdam in 1977 — one toke, seriously falling on the floor stuff.

    The majority of seized weed comes from Mexico and constitutes the baseline measures for claims about how potent the weed today is. The simple fact of the matter is that poor quality control “back in the day” meant seriously crappy weed. Just implementing a few simple steps (culling the mails, better handling) led to the improvements in the quality of commericial Mexican weed.

    Bottom line: we had excellent stuff back then, but the majority of street weed was Mexican schwag. Today, most of the street weed is also Mexican in origin, but the product is of higher quality.

    Here is an interesting look at how the potency issue has been addressed over the years: thc-content.

    And one final note: the latest round of anti-drug advertising from the ONDCP and PDFA is claiming that today’s weed is merely twice as strong as that of yesteryear.

  34. Nice,

    Cool. You made me smile.

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