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An Addiction Vaccine? It Could Happen Sooner Than You Think

Addiction Vaccine

An Addiction Vaccine? It Could Happen Sooner Than You Think

We shouldn’t be having this conversation. Not after all these years. It’s not as if drug addiction just dropped down from the sky. It’s been around longer than anyone alive. Far, far longer. Centuries if you want to get technical. Decades if you want to keep it modern. Yet here we are. Still fighting the same battle. And still without a battle-ending weapon. Yes, we mean an addiction vaccine. How long did it take to come up with a vaccine to fight COVID? Less than a year, no? We’ve also managed to develop vaccines for smallpox and polio, measles and chickenpox, and the common everyday flu. Sure, it took a little longer (in some cases, a lot longer), but at least the vaccines were developed.

But no vaccine for addiction. Why? Well, largely because addiction wasn’t seen as a disease. In fact, a large part of the medical community still doesn’t think it’s a disease. We’ve only just recently were gifted with a Drug Czar who’s brought the battle up to meet the science. The other main reason we’re still without an addiction vaccine is because of bias. Addiction has almost always been considered a moral failing. That meant addicts were considered moral failures. And few folks have ever been willing to extend a helping hand to a moral failure.

Folks have been even less likely to use vast resources on such people. We’re talking many, many millions of dollars, as well as an army of the brightest minds and a battlefield-full of the best-equipped labs. We’re also talking time. Considerable time. And apparently wasted time at that. Face it: how many people want to tie up valuable resources in order to help those who refuse to help themselves?

Not a whole lot.

Why We Need an Addiction Vaccine

Helping people who are suffering from a bona fide disease is an entirely different story. When that disease is killing upwards of a 100,000 Americans at an annual clip, well, that story becomes a tragedy. A vast tragedy. The kind of vast tragedy for which resources have been set aside in the first place. We have those resources. If not, we surely can get them. Just as we surely can employ them to meet the demand at hand.

Got doubts about the need? The number of 2021’s drug overdose deaths will put those doubts to rest. See, that 100K-plus number wasn’t just pulled from thin air. It wasn’t rung simply to alarm either. (Though it is indeed alarming.) No, that number came straight from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. And numbers don’t come any more believable than that.

So yes, you can believe it. There were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 12-month period ending in April 2021. You can also believe the number was 28.5% higher than the previous year. Why weren’t we all up in arms by 2020’s 78,056 deaths? Your guess is just as good as anybody else’s. It’s also just as meaningless.

This is Now

That was then though. And we’re concerned with now. We’re especially concerned considering that 100,306 figure was a provisional tally. Chances are better than average we’ve exceeded that terrible stat. Chances are even better we’ll more than exceed the terrible new number too. After all, things haven’t much changed. The world’s still suffering COVID’s deviousness, be it ever more communicable strains to ever more diabolical politics. We’re also still awash in fentanyl, via our pills and our powders and even our plants. Yep, drug dealers now apparently believe everything goes better with fentanyl, including cannabis. And lately they’ve been sprinkling the lethal concoction on illicit weed. Why the cartels believe it’s cool to risk killing their customers is another good and meaningless guess.

The point is people are still overdosing and dying at an absolutely astronomical rate, and we need a pointed new push to stop it.

Addiction Vaccine: The Perfect Point Person

Professor Marco Pravetoni seems to be the perfect point person for this pointed new push. Formerly with the University of Minnesota Medical Discovery Team on Addiction, as well as the university’s Center for Immunology, Dr. Prayetoni has recently been awarded the inaugural Rick L. Seaver Endowed Professorship for Brain Wellness at the University of Washington. The position is funded by the Garvey Institute for Brain Health Solutions, which is part of UW’s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences. And it’ll place Dr. Pravetoni at the head of UW Medicine’s new Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders.

If that sounds like a whole lot of hullabaloo, you should get a good look at the actual hyper-advanced doings the good doctor undertook at UMN, as well as what he’s undertaking at UW. We’re talking terms and formulations it’d take an advanced degree simply to read, let alone understand. It’s all primed Dr. Prayetoni to meet the challenge at hand though, and it’s done so in ways few highly-educated action figures can match. Not just in experience, mind you (though of course there is loads of that), but in experiential experience. Furthermore, it’s experiential experience that will not only continue apace, but will pick up the pace the doc has already set.

Yes, we mean nothing less than the in-person testing of an addiction vaccine. And while the Phase I Clinical Trials will focus solely on opioids — and justifiably so too — the methods also bode promising for cocaine.

Of course, Dr. Pravetoni won’t be going it alone. In addition to a crack team of addiction experts operating by his side, the new research program will partner with scientists, clinicians, advocates, clients, civic leaders and other active and interested shareholders. Whoever it takes to effectively combat addiction and to efficiently serve the health needs of the community.

Dawn of a New Day?

Does this addiction vaccine effort mark the proverbial dawn of a new day? We certainly hope so. As do many others in the addiction treatment community. We’ve all seen too many people lost to addiction’s ferocious grip. And we’re all looking for some release. Even if these new efforts don’t mean an immediate end-all, they’ll hopefully at least help keep people alive till an end-all is developed. Heck, at this point, we simply want something to help keep more people alive.

Healing Properties salutes Dr. Marco Pravetoni and his team for their efforts, as well as their dedication. An addiction vaccine is just what the world needed a good doctor to order. We’re absolutely elated to see the prescription is in.

We’d also like to salute the good folks at the University of Washington and the University of Minnesota. Both revered institutions were behind developing an addiction vaccine when few people would even consider the prospect. And both institutions deserve our gratitude, as well as our respect.

We’d also very much like to thank Seattle Times Mental Health Project reporter Hannah Furfaro. It was her ace reporting that led us to Dr. Pravetoni to begin with. And we’re certain it will be her ace reporting that continues to lead us into and through the future.

What about you? Could you use some encouragement? How about some help? There may be no addiction vaccine right now, but there is a way out. In fact, it’s as close as a phone call. Really. Okay, so not really really. But a call can open the door. And recovery only takes one open door. So how about it? Give us a ring. Please. Let us help you get sorted. It might just save your life.

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