A study in ACS' Journal of Medicinal Chemistry revealed that scientists have developed an essential ingredient for a heroin vaccine to help individuals battling addiction. 

Kim D. Janda said that heroin use costs the US more than $22 billion in 1996 due to medical and law enforcement expenses and loss of productivity.  Behavioral-therapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, and certain medicines are effective treatments but many patients still experience relapses.  Furthermore, lack of access to treatments and unwanted side effects from medications continues to be a problem.

Heroin and morphine were responsible for 51 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the United States in 1999 and the drug was rated by the British Medical Journal Lancet as the most addictive and most harmful of the drugs that are commonly abused.  Psychological ramifications include substance-induced psychosis. 

The new vaccine will help prevent patient relapse.  New developments have been made in vaccines for cocaine, methamphetamine, and nicotine, said Janda.

When laboratory rats were given the vaccine, they were found less willing to self-administer heroin. 

In conclusion, a vaccine for heroin addiction could prove to be a useful tool for combating heroin addiction, wherein it exploits a motivated recovering addict's own immune system to blunt heroin's psychoactive effects in the case of relapse, the researchers said.