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“Fentanyl is killing Americans at an unprecedented rate,” Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an April statement. Today, a team of scientists say the life-saving vaccine could be available within three to four years.
“Drug traffickers are driving addiction and increasing their profits by mixing fentanyl with other illicit drugs. Tragically, many overdose victims have no idea they are ingesting deadly fentanyl, until it’s too late.”
Now, researchers at the University of Houston say in a statement they have a potential solution that could be a “game-changer” in the form of a new vaccine that blocks fentanyl from entering the brain.
Florida cop overdose on fentanyl during traffic stop pic.twitter.com/FXQ6eJg9sC
— Laugh Out Loud TV?? | 200k followers ??? (@ImJokedTfOut) December 15, 2022
In a study published in Pharmaceutics, scientists tested their vaccine on 60 rats. The immunized animals could produce anti-fentanyl antibodies that stop the drug’s effects, allowing it to exit out of the body via the kidneys. This blocks the “high” caused by fentanyl, and it would theoretically make it easier for people to quit using the drug or avoid a relapse.
According to The Smithsonian’s Margaret Osborne, the vaccine contains an ingredient called dmLT, which is derived from E. coli. dmLT is an adjuvant, meaning it boosts the immune system’s response to vaccines. This is a key component in inoculations against addiction, per the statement.
While the immunization could protect people who accidentally ingest fentanyl when taking other drugs, it was designed for those who are addicted and want to quit.
Fentanyl is a community killer
“Overdose rates have been growing fastest among Black communities,” says Joseph Friedman, an addiction researcher at UCLA. “For the first time, we see them overtaking the overdose rate among White individuals.”
Four men have been arrested for allegedly being part of a drug trafficking organization that sold fentanyl-laced heroin to actor Michael K. Williams. Best known for his role as Omar Little on “The Wire,” Williams was found dead in his apartment last Sept. https://t.co/XvFqrUbfhX pic.twitter.com/ZThz4K42TS
— HLN (@HLNTV) February 3, 2022
“Many more people come in today saying they use fentanyl,” Philip Van Guilder, the director of community affairs and overdose prevention at Greenhouse Treatment Center in Texas who was not involved in the research, tells KTRK. “They say to you, ‘I actually don’t use heroin. I specifically buy fentanyl.’ The numbers are increasing, and it’s a very large percentage.”
Current treatments for opioid use disorder include methadone and buprenorphine, which both activate brain receptors associated with opioids, and the medication naltrexone, which blocks the effects of opioids. The success of these treatments can vary depending on the individual, access to treatment and the drug they’re addicted to, per the study. Naloxone is used to save the lives of individuals who are actively overdosing, but it is a short-term solution and does not treat the addiction.
Group of Men sold 120,000 fake oxycodone pills laced with fentanyl on dark web according to FEDS??? pic.twitter.com/VM59yEozD1
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) December 17, 2022
White House announces tool to track opioid emergencies in real-time
There were about 181,806 nonfatal opioid overdoses recorded in the United States in the past year, and it’s taken about 9.8 minutes on average for emergency medical services to reach someone who’s overdosing, according to a data dashboard that the White House debuted earlier this month.
Earlier this month, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, launched a first-of-its-kind Nonfatal Opioid Overdose Dashboard to track national statistics of non-fatal opioid overdoses across the country.
The White House said in its new release, “At a time when a non-fatal overdose is a leading predictor for a future fatal overdose, widespread access to this data will help first responders on the frontlines of the overdose epidemic target life-saving interventions such as the overdose-reversal medication naloxone. The dashboard will also help inform service providers as they connect people to life-saving treatment for substance use disorder.”
CNN reports the dashboard can also be used by first responders, clinicians and policymakers. It will “empower local communities” to tailor their opioid overdose responses and track their progress, says Dr. Rahul Gupta, the nation’s drug czar.
Obtaining and monitoring more real-time data on opioid overdoses that do not end in death could help predict where overdose deaths are more likely to happen and where there might be an increased need for first responders as well as the life-saving medication naloxone, which temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.
During the past seven years, as soaring quantities of fentanyl flooded into the U.S., mistakes by successive U.S. administrations allowed the most lethal drug crisis in American history to become significantly worse, a Post investigation has found. https://t.co/rGaP5rgcwN pic.twitter.com/4uuwZqrBR4
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 12, 2022
Data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 107,735 people died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending in July. That’s about 2,500 fewer deaths than the record high that was reached in March, marking a 2% drop over four months.
Despite the improvement, annual drug overdose deaths in July were still 25% higher than they were two years earlier and more than 50% higher than they were five years earlier. And the types of drugs involved in fatal overdoses has changed.
Synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, were involved in more than two-thirds of overdose deaths, according to the latest provisional CDC data.