The opioid epidemic killed more than 560,000 people between 1999 and 2015 — drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. In 2015, accidental overdose killed 52,404 people; 20,101 of them died because of prescription pain killers, with 12,990 dying from heroin.
But researchers say they may have a new trick up their sleeves when it comes to helping people with addiction issues — injecting them with vaccines designed to eliminate their urge to abuse drugs.
Researchers are currently working to develop these types of vaccines, which they say will prevent drugs from reaching the brain — preventing the user from feeling even a smidgen of the desirable effects. The goal is not to prevent people from experimenting with drugs, simply to assist the ones who want help in their recovery.
Ron Crystal, a researcher at Weill Cornell Medical College, told NBC News that — while there are already a handful of drugs on the market intended to help the addicted user lose interest in their drug of choice — the new vaccines would last longer and be free of harsh side effects.
“The concept of addiction vaccines is if you can prevent the addictive molecule from reaching the brain, you won’t get the high and you’ll stop using,” he said. “The antibodies have to be sufficient — like little Pac-Men floating around in your blood — to prevent the drug from reaching the brain.”
For the past several years, scientists have been developing addiction vaccines for people struggling with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Some are even brewing mysterious concoctions that will supposedly take all of the pleasure out of alcohol and cigarettes. But there is no mention of a marijuana addiction vaccine in the report.
Despite what federal officials would like the population to believe, there’s such a minute chance of a person becoming addicted to marijuana that it’s actually more likely to endure problems associated with the regular consumption of common substances like caffeine or sugar.
Studies show that only around 9 percent of the people who use marijuana end up with symptoms of addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. To put this into perspective, caffeine addiction has been shown to affect three out of four users.
In 2015, roughly 138,000 people felt their smoky love affair with weed had become so severe that they found it necessary to seek treatment. But none of those people even remotely came close to death – at least not from the weed. However, while they were on the mend, there were likely more than a handful of deadly caffeine overdoses, according to Grub Street.
Even though the U.S. government still considers marijuana to be one of the most dangerous drugs in the world — classifying it in the same category as heroin — the majority of the population is starting to understand that the demonization of the cannabis plant is not rooted in anything real.
In fact, some of the latest national polls show a heavy majority of American citizens (88 percent) believe the herb should be made legal for medical use. Most even believe that it should be taxed and regulated similar to beer.
Researchers say they will continue exploring methods to prevent people from succumbing to those drugs that actual pose a threat to human safety. They admit, however, that even once addiction vaccines are finally made available to the general public, they will only be effective “for someone who wants to quit.”
TELL US, do you know anyone struggling with addiction to cannabis?