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Could a vaccine solve the drug problem?

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Mark Easton | 10:56 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

Should politicians exploit brain science to make us behave?

mortimer203.jpgA year ago, the late, great John Mortimer announced to the world that, at the age of 84, he was going to start smoking. "I'm not particularly keen on smoking", he confessed.

"I used to smoke and then I gave it up, partly because I don't like dirty ashtrays. But I forced myself to take it up again when the government said it would ban smoking in public places" .

Politicians struggle to change our behaviour. The more they urge us to go out and shop for Britain, the more we are likely to squirrel our money under the mattress.

If government insists that we eat our greens or that we wear helmets on motorbikes, some will delight in devouring doughnuts as they zip about on a scooter sporting a sombrero.

Distrust of and disdain for authority explain the attitude of many to those who Mortimer described as the "busy control freaks". People don't like being bossed about.

Nevertheless, making society function well does require control. We tend to expect government to do more than make the trains run on time and keep the drains clear.

For instance, many think it is the job of politicians to sort out the drugs problem.

Drugs present a particular conundrum, however. Passing legislation (lots of it) is said to have had virtually no effect other than to criminalise millions.

You may recall last summer's post in which I quoted a report from the UK Drugs Policy Commission saying that "law enforcement efforts have had little adverse effect on the availability of illicit drugs in the UK".

Ruth Carraway, Lee McDonald, and Lisa York during the recording of the song for the Just Say No Campaign in 1986. All are characters from the show Grange Hill. MacDonald's character Zammo becomes a heroin addict and from this the cast made a recording to help children become aware of the dangers of drugs.Exhortation in the form of information and health campaigns has limited impact in a culture where illegal drug use is widespread. And, as with John Mortimer's smoking protest, telling the kids to "just say no" may have the opposite effect.

It is the apparent futility of government efforts in this arena that has prompted another august body to think the unthinkable: "vaccinating children against the effects of dangerous drugs".

"Where regulators persist in seeking first phase regulatory solutions (laws), we might imagine an approach that resorts increasingly to a technological fix," advises the Academy of Medical Sciences in a government-commissioned report entitled "Brain science, addiction and drugs" published last year.

The evidence that addiction has a genetic component is becoming compelling. "Genetic markers have been identified that distinguished addicts from matched controls," the report says. For instance, a marker identified as "DRD2 A1+ allele" was "significantly more likely" to be found among drug addicts than in the general population.

"In this context, the question of genetic profiling at birth might be revisited in the future," suggest the authors, with the "need for a continuing dialogue with the public about the more general issues raised by identification of genetic risk factors and the potential use in children of vaccines against the effects of dangerous drugs".

LEFT: Syringe, bag of heroin and heroin on a spoon being prepared for injection, to be injected 27/02/2004 Press Association; RIGHT: Close-up of gloved hand holding syringe<br />
01/01/2000 1998 EyeWire, Inc.Vaccines are seen as an innovative approach to the treatment of addictions. The vaccine would stimulate the immune system to make antibodies which recognise and neutralise a dangerous drug. Already companies are working on vaccines which aim to eliminate the "rush" felt by users of cocaine and nicotine.

When the experts tried out the idea on the public, they got a pretty hefty thumbs down: "most participants envisaged a future where vaccines might be used on babies identified as vulnerable to addiction."

People didn't like the idea that the state should decide these matters, believing instead "that starting and stopping the use of recreational drugs was a choice".

The Academy of Medical Sciences didn't push the vaccine proposal, although the idea of nationwide genetic profiling is, they suggest, something that may be looked at differently in 10 years or so.

And the notion that the answer to changing our behaviour may be found inside our heads is given further impetus with the suggestion that "regulators may also look to the potential applications of the new brain science".

Is this fruitful inquiry? In the absence of a successful alternative strategy, should politicians ask scientists to look at ways of adjusting our brains and bodies to deal with the tragic and expensive consequences of addiction?


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  • 1. At 11:19am on 19 Jan 2009, scotbot wrote:

    Welcome to the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley.

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  • 2. At 11:28am on 19 Jan 2009, killcrash wrote:

    A much better vaccine would be one which would immunize against meddling politicians - I would make a fortune !!

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  • 3. At 12:06pm on 19 Jan 2009, plawrence14 wrote:

    Dear Lord no!
    Whilst acknowledging the dangers of drugs, and the social problem they can bring, using these methods is wrong from a moral stand point.
    Its almost akin to eugenics! There should always be personal choice in these matters and it's up to parents to teach their children of the dangers and make them aware of the effects of drugs.

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  • 4. At 1:24pm on 19 Jan 2009, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:

    Sounds like a pretty daft idea to me. One of the most important drugs of abuse is heroin and related opioids. Heroin and related opioids also have a legitimate medical use as painkillers.

    What happens if you're vaccinated against opioids and then find yourself in terrible pain after, say, a car crash?

    As for what the best way of tackling drugs is, it's pretty clear that prohibition doesn't work, just like it didn't work when they tried it with alcohol in the US. It's a shame our politicians don't have the cojones to follow through on the obvious corollary to that.

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  • 5. At 1:24pm on 19 Jan 2009, silenos wrote:

    It might be more appropriate to require vaccination in persons convicted of drug-related crime. However, vaccination is unlikely to be helpful in dealing with opiate abuse (which is probably the biggest generator of crime because of the physical dependence it produces). If you vaccinated everyone against opioids you would be unable to give them pain relief during surgery, and even the pain relievers your dentist might prescribe or that you might buy in Boots for more severe pain would become less effective

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  • 6. At 1:28pm on 19 Jan 2009, D-Notice wrote:

    Drugs are not a problem to society.

    The majoirty damage is caused by prohibition.

    After all, when was the last time you heard of someone being gunned-down in a dispute over cigarettes or whisky?

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  • 7. At 1:33pm on 19 Jan 2009, allabouttowler wrote:

    Hmmm, are we really surprised that in a study it was found the majority of the public was against this idea? Who exactly is it who gets to say what an ideal person should conorm to? We have society's laws, fair enough, but laws, views and morals change, they're not fixed. To start pharmeceutically engineering the people of the 21st century to fit a distinctly 21st century ideal is hugely rash and thoroughly, frankly, stupid.

    There's no denying the detrimental effects that certin drugs have on society, but in a so called free society I'm afraid it's a small risk to take in order to safeguard our right to not be genetically engineered before birth by the government.

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  • 8. At 2:02pm on 19 Jan 2009, pigsnoutman123 wrote:

    I would welcome this as a treatment, but not as a general vaccine for everyone, or those who are likely to become addicted.
    If the vaccine is used on most addicts, then the whole drug industry will collapse. Hurray.
    It would be less of an intrution of rights than locking them up.

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  • 9. At 2:18pm on 19 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:

    My god, no. This is an awful idea.

    Human beings are somehow not good enough for society and must therefore be altered so as to be more acceptable?

    I would suggest that this is a sign of a failed society clinging to broken ideals and models.

    This is sick, thoroughly sick. The laws on drug use have little impact on consumption and divert masses of money to the criminal, black economy, cause gangs and violence to be profitable and attractive and generally make things worse.

    It is the politicians that we should be altering, to stop them legislating their petty puritan mentalities.

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  • 10. At 2:20pm on 19 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:

    Further to my last comment -

    Many of these drugs work because they are analogous to chemicals found/made in the brain.

    vaccinating against them could be a very dangerous thing to do, with unforseen consequences on brain development, response to pain, emotion etc etc.

    We would be fools to think this path a good idea. We would be even more foolish to ever try it.

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  • 11. At 3:40pm on 19 Jan 2009, MikeNH wrote:

    A vaccination against the effects of harmful drugs? Its absurd. Addicts skip from drug to drug in pursuit of the next high. Glue sniffing, oxycontin, crystal meth, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, alcohol ... will all of these be pursued? And when the next big thing comes out ... will we pursue that too? If one thing is for certain there WILL be a next big thing.
    If we are serious about fixing the drug problem we need to get serious about how it is that so many people are leading miserable unfulfilled existences such that poisoning themselves to get a temporary high even seems appealing in the first place. The root cause is not biology or chemistry, but rather it is a failing in our social fabric. Let's try fixing that first.

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  • 12. At 3:43pm on 19 Jan 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #9 "My god, no. This is an awful idea.

    Human beings are somehow not good enough for society and must therefore be altered so as to be more acceptable?"

    Would you be so concerned if it was serial illers, paedophiles or rapists being 'altered'?

    The simple truth is that many (but not all) addicts are not part of society- they're bombed out their brains most of the day and they steal and prostitute themselves for their fix. FORCING them to be vaccinated against the drug is harsh but no something I'm totally against, but giving them the option of being vaccinated if they wish is something I totally support.

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  • 13. At 4:21pm on 19 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    There is also now research into producing a drug that would block the effects of Crack [cocaine] on the brain. Crack is a widely available street drug and said by many addicts (I've known quite a few as a voluntary drug worker) to be harder to give up than heroin. A drug that blocked the effects of crack would essentially nullify the point of taking it and could play a major role in treating addicts that wanted to become clean.

    To take this a stage further: Drug use contributes to a significant amount of crime and also creates absolute devastation and misery in many peoples' lives. Suppose one injection of a ‘blocker’ could 'cure' them of that addiction. Would it be ethical to administer it to addicts in prison, even against their wishes, if it could prevent further harm to themselves and to society? (I suspect a majority of the public might agree with doing so, particularly as other treatments seem to be ineffective.)

    As for Mark's exploration above about a vaccine for children that could lessen the chances of later addiction. It's difficult to make a case that drug addition is a positive or desirable experience for an individual; if parents could choose for it to be administered to a child as a precautionary measure then I imagine many would do so.
    Unfortunately those parents that most should give permission for any addiction vaccine to be administered are those that: A) would be unaware of it B) be most detached from society themselves C) Least likely to have their child’s welfare at heart.

    However, I'm a little cynical about the idea of a magic bullet ‘vaccine’. Most street addicts I've met have come from appalling home backgrounds (including abuse of all kinds) and are damaged, messed up people. That's one major reason they got into drugs in the first place, to numb pain; I'm not convinced there's a chemical cure for that. But if one could be administered to an adult that would stop active drug use, that alone could bring greater stability to their lives and lead allow other therapies a greater chance of success. And would it be really any different that sectioning someone under the mental health act for the own safety and good and to protect others?

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  • 14. At 4:25pm on 19 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #12 Peter_Syn

    "Would you be so concerned if it was serial illers, paedophiles or rapists being 'altered'?"

    I would be concerned if children were being identified as potential paedophiles, rapists or killer at birth, by genetic profile, and we proposed having their brain chemistry altered, yes, absolutely.

    What the research above says is that there is a gene that is significantly more likely to be found in drug addicts than in the normal population. What it doesn't say is what the raw numbers are, how many people have it that are not addicted to drugs (and hence how many folks we would give this potentially dangerous moral vaccine to).

    "The simple truth is that many (but not all) addicts are not part of society- they're bombed out their brains most of the day and they steal and prostitute themselves for their fix."

    So we need to fix their brains rather than figure out what caused them to drop out of society?

    "FORCING them to be vaccinated against the drug is harsh but no something I'm totally against, but giving them the option of being vaccinated if they wish is something I totally support."

    Admirable, but beside the point, we're talking about vaccinating people at birth because of genetic markers.

    And you know that this will be abused by governments and puritans. Oh! Honey we havd you vaccinated when you were born so you could never experience pot! For your own good of course!

    This is power that will be exercised by those who think they're doing good, or who want to appear to be doing good, that no human should be given over another.

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  • 15. At 4:40pm on 19 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #13 - "And would it be really any different that sectioning someone under the mental health act for the own safety and good and to protect others?"

    It depends where it starts and where it ends.

    Yes, there are addicts on various substances (heroin, crack/cocaine, crystal meth) that harm themselves and others. But currently the law treats them the same way as it treats users of Pot and other drugs for which there is little to no evidence of harm. Many would say that laws against these are a combination of moral and hysterical legislation.

    I could see the current British government, in all their nannying glory, mandating this for anyone caught using "drugs"; especially if they're under 18.

    Biochemical alteration for a non-approved moral stance is repellent to me and is the stuff that Huxley and Orwell's dystopias were made of.

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  • 16. At 5:19pm on 19 Jan 2009, ProLiberty wrote:

    Just wanted to say, I agree with gothnet. Couldn't say it better myself.

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  • 17. At 5:25pm on 19 Jan 2009, Terenceno14 wrote:

    Government drugs policy is entirely determined by how favourably it will play out in the daily mail so I see this one as a go-er!

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  • 18. At 5:31pm on 19 Jan 2009, bionicAlejandro wrote:

    Some say that the vaccine would cut the freedom, but maybe for those people genetically prone to it, it would actually be like freeing them. The same happens too with other things like our preference for fats and sugars, since they became cheaper and more aviable people consume them more often and there we have health problem. Now, do we eat sugar and fats being truly free? or are we just acting irracionaly giving in to an ancestral insctinct that long ago served the species when food was scarce and you had to eat all you could while you had the food? the same can be said of people addicted to sex are they truly acting on their own will or are they just following ther instincts like animals do?
    And when we accuse someone of lacking will to leave the drugs maybe its because its twice as hard for them to leave them than it is for us.
    Now as some have already pointed out, it would indeed be foolly to blame someone for a crime that hasn't yet been done and force the vaccine on them but it would be ok for frecuent criminals. Yes it may be violating their rights but they violeted the rights of other citizens before (comited with the purpouse of getting money to buy their drugs), locking them up is cutting their freedom anyways. And after all the freedom of an indiviual ends with the fredom of another. And if someone wants to be totally free then the only option is to go live like an ermit. There that person could take as many drugs as he/she pleases with no complain of no one.

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  • 19. At 6:17pm on 19 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    'the law treats users of Pot and other drugs for which there is little to no evidence of harm. Many would say that laws against these are a combination of moral and hysterical legislation.' #15 #16.

    I'm afraid I now cringe when I hear the word 'pot'. It usually comes from someone who smoked a bit of cannabis in the 1960s and thinks today's skunk is the same thing, it isn't. (I'm sorry if that sounds unkind, but when I read 'pot' in a book I know the author hasn't got out much since at least the early 1970s; drug slang terms change with each generation - nowadays it'd be 'weed', 'draw' etc.)
    The milder forms of cannabis are virtually unavailable today, for dealers the money is now in skunk that can be grown in large quantity in houses in the UK.

    There is increasing evidence of a link between skunk and schizophrenia. In 2006 22,000 people were treated by the NHS for addiction and psychological problems caused by smoking skunk. OK, before someone jumps in and say 'I've smoked it every day for ten years and I'm OK' we're back to what Mark was saying about genetic components.

    Skunk is stronger than the cannabis of the 60s because concentrations of tetra-hydracannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive element that can provoke psychosis, have risen, by up to 40 times 1960s levels. The 'high' is caused mainly by THC binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
    The schizophrenia link is that cannabis works by raising dopamine levels (dopamine is what causes the high/pleasure feelings), unfortunately high dopamine levels are associated with the onset of schizophrenia.
    (One current treatment for schizophrenia is dopamine blockers.)

    In studying schizophrenia its now thought that there's a gene that makes some people more predisposed to entering into it than others, unfortunately up to 25% of the population could have this. Studies have found that people were four and a half times more likely to be schizophrenic at 26 if they started smoking skunk at 15.

    Google: skunk and schizophrenia, cannabis and schizophrenia, THC + schizophrenia etc etc.

    See also:

    NB: The average cannabis plant contains about 60 components and 400 chemicals. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the only non psychoactive component.
    It is Cannabidiol that seems to produce pain relief in inflammatory disorders etc. It is this single component that gives Canabis its 'painkilling medicinal use' reputation.
    What's needed are painkillers and medicines based solely on this one chemical.
    CBD also unfortunately decreases the rate of THC clearance from the body, the effects of skunk last longer today than the effects of 'pot' did.

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  • 20. At 6:18pm on 19 Jan 2009, fzanchi wrote:

    Vaccines would be extremely dangerous. The so-called recreational drugs exploit existing neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. Block a dopamine channel, get Parkinson's; block endorphins, get uncontrollable pain; block serotonin, get depressed to death.
    All chemical compounds (even table salt and water) present danger when used in excess. The prohibition of recreational drugs did not come about because of the health risks they pose to the occasional user, but because they were considered a "sin" against which poor innocent folk had to be protected. Look up the history of alcohol prohibition in America during the 1920s. Do-gooders and governments always choose to restrict rather than inform.
    With the money now being ineffectually spent to criminalise the low-quality drugs found on the streets, the safe distribution of pure drugs would drive the gangs out of business and make addiction really a matter of choice. There would be no incentive for pushers to target schoolchildren. Petty crime to pay for drugs would disappear. Those regretting their choice would have no fear of being treated as criminals when seeking treatment.
    People driving after taking cocaine? No one does that now, of course.
    Legalisation would cost far less and would free the judicial system to deal with the real criminals.

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  • 21. At 8:00pm on 19 Jan 2009, SensibleLogic wrote:

    There's such a simple solution to the drugs problem it's incomprehensible that it hasn't been instigated - unless of course we don't want to solve the problem?

    All that's needed is for the Government to bulk buy the popular drugs and make them available at notional cost to certified addicts.

    By doing so, they remove:
    - the incentive for criminals to get kids hooked (which will all but put a stop to new addicts);
    - the "junkies" incentive to commit crime to fund their habits (which limits damage to civilians currently impacted and reduces the burden on the criminal justice system);
    - the illegal import of drugs from producing countries (again reducing the burden on the criminal justice system).

    If the Governments of the major countries affected got together on this, they could use "FAIR TRADE" means to control the production and improve the working conditions of producers....maybe even redirecting production to crops that benefit their communities in the medium and longer term.

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  • 22. At 9:15pm on 19 Jan 2009, ProLiberty wrote:


    Being human means having the free will to control our instincts. Giving in to our instincts sometimes makes us more human, and more free, not less.

    If we lose that freedom of self-determination, we lose all of our freedom.

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  • 23. At 9:26pm on 19 Jan 2009, ProLiberty wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 24. At 10:16pm on 19 Jan 2009, mitvisdae wrote:

    i have to say i whole heartly agree with , allabouttowler, in that "who exactly gets to say what an ideal person should conorm to? these views and morals change, they're not fixed."

    Another intersting point that should be rasied with the report is that whilst

    "a marker identified as "DRD2 A1+ allele" was "significantly more likely" to be found among drug addicts than in the general population."

    This shouldn't be used as weight, in the argument for "children vaccines against the effects of dangerous drugs". As it would ignore all those in the general population who have the same markers but arn't drug addicts. It would anger me greatly if any thing like childrens vaccines against the effects of dangerous drugs were introduced in any shape or form. it would be assuming that those vaccinated would become addicts taking away further personal choices/freedoms from our rapidly decreasing civil liberties.

    so from a moral If any thing like this were to be passed as law i would move abroad asap using my vote to support any political parties opposed to this law.

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  • 25. At 00:03am on 20 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:


    I haven't, in general, been impressed with the quality of any of the research done on links between skunk and schizophrenia - the main study used as political ammunition was inconclusive and showed only a correlation rather than a causative link.

    However even if it were to be proven, is that not more reason to take control of the situation and legalise that which we do think is less harmful?

    Who would buy illegal skunk if they could legally get milder, less harmful stuff?

    Similarlly, who goes out and buys pure ethanol when they can grab a beer? Not many folks.

    (By the way, I say pot, and I'm only 30. Though maybe that's old enough to be out of touch)

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  • 26. At 02:11am on 20 Jan 2009, R0b1nsdad wrote:

    Skunk is stronger than the cannabis of the 60s because concentrations of tetra-hydracannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive element that can provoke psychosis, have risen, by up to 40 times

    I'm sorry - this is such rot. THC in skunk is 20% tops, so weed in the 60's was 0.5%?

    This also ignores hash and extracts such as oil, which were as strong then as today.

    Not one of the goverment studies could find a single case of schizophrenia where cannabis was the only drug taken when hair samples were analysed. The fact is people take drugs (self medicate) when they find themselves going mad.

    You cannot rely on what patients say about their drug use - Cannabis is a very noticeable drug, it's bulky, you smoke it, which is akin to social leprosy these days, and it stinks - apart from the effect, how do you tell if someones just dropped some acid as well?

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  • 27. At 06:58am on 20 Jan 2009, valiantnoddy wrote:

    I was alarmed to read that the government is even considering such an outrageous plan. It would be the beginning of the end.

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  • 28. At 07:55am on 20 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    Comment #26. The point is THC levels have risen steeply, along with cases of mental health disorders amongst skunk/weed/bud smokers. BTW, I use to smoke weed
    it too, I gave up. Do some research of your own.

    The below is from a site for cannabis plant growers, rather then using any Govt figures.
    'Some sources say that marijuana with THC content of 1% to 4% was considered good dope by most Americans in the 1960's. In the year 2007, the good commercial grade marijuana available to most users had a THC content of about 5% to 10% and premium Sinsemilla was about 10% to 20% THC. Some reports have marijuana with a THC content of over 25% being produced by some advanced hydroponic growers. 25%-30% THC is probably the maximum potential for marijuana.'

    Popular strains amongst regular smokers I know include Blueberry (TCH = 19.5%) and Peacemaker (TCH 14.0%).
    TCH tests do show it can induce psychosis.

    'make addiction really a matter of choice; # 20 'the Government to bulk buy the popular drugs and make them available at notional cost to certified addicts'
    'the safe distribution of pure drugs would drive the gangs out of business'. #20; #21.

    To be a Devils' Advocate: Most addiction IS through choice, addicts weren't forced, they liked the effects, quite a few are using it because of their backgrounds, an escape. A few may have been talked into trying a 'sample' by a dealer, but the vast majority of addicts come into contact with drugs through
    friends, partners or even family. Many are multidrug users.(There are different markets and different social groups like different types of drugs.)
    There are problems with the state selling or supplying cheap, pure drugs to addicts. I point this out because you'd have to convince the electorate to fund any
    scheme and any strategy needs to be thoroughly thought through.

    A) The first is that most addicts are on social security and also steal/prostitute to fund it. They would run out of money the first day, then its
    back to the old ways.
    B) So you'd end up giving drugs to them, the question is how much is enough for and addict? The answer is there isn't a limit.
    I've heard of crack addicts smoking 100 pipes in a weekend, heroin addicts that smoke/inject prodigious amounts per day. Its a little like asking how much
    alcohol to give an alcoholic, the nature of addiction is you want more. And the more drugs they consume bigger their habit; the harder it is to
    treat them.Is supply to be open ended?
    C) The problem third is that by supplying them with cheap/free drugs there is little incentive for them to enter treatment or think of another lifestyle. In
    fact it could tempt some into it: Whey hey, free drugs; its rock and roll for life!
    D) So to make addicts enter treatment you end the supply of drugs. Bear in mind its been found that coercive measures to try and get addicts to enter or
    complete treatments have been found to be ineffective; and anyway even addicts that do want to get clean can take several attempts over several years before
    they manage it.
    But ending supply wouldn't worry them, the dealers will still be there and it’s back to the old ways of funding them: crime/prostitution etc.
    E) Dealers aren't going to just give up and get jobs. They'll look to selling different types of drugs (Methamphetamine [ Crystal Meth or Ice ] use is now
    spreading in the UK - it affects the central nervous system and is highly addictive.) or to different types of crime.
    Does the state supply every type of drug on an 'on demand' basis for life?

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  • 29. At 09:00am on 20 Jan 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #25 "Who would buy illegal skunk if they could legally get milder, less harmful stuff?

    Similarlly, who goes out and buys pure ethanol when they can grab a beer? Not many folks."

    Errr... lots of people buy (almost) pure ethanol rather than beer. Vodka is basically 40% ethanol and water andnot much else. Are you suggesting that because beer is available no-one buys vodka?

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  • 30. At 09:04am on 20 Jan 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    Those panicking about all children being tested and vaccinated are forgetting something... cost.

    The DNA testing would be aboout £1000 a kid and we haven't even got enough geneticists to screen for common diseases and clear the backlog of forensics for the police.

    The actual vaccine is likely to cost approx the same as herceptin (because if it uses monoclonal antibodies it will need exactly the same development and testing and be just as expensive to make: hybridomas don't grow on trees). As with any vaccine the effect will diminish with age and require frequent booster shots to keep the antibody titre topped up (even good vaccines like Tetanus and hep B need boosters every ten years)

    You can stop panicking now.

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  • 31. At 09:33am on 20 Jan 2009, CarolineOfBrunswick wrote:

    "It is hard to envisage vaccines as an effective treatment for addictions to psychoactive drugs such as cocaine or heroin. In these cases, the addict is likely to be tempted to increase drug dose to overcome the effects of the vaccine, or simply to switch to an alternative drug."

    from Brain science, addiction and drugs report, p. 55

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  • 32. At 10:20am on 20 Jan 2009, Neil_Hunt wrote:

    A very dumb idea for various reasons, many of which have already been described. It would be far more effective if we looked for ways to 'vaccinate' people against inter-generational poverty, abusive social situations, environments with a lack of cultural capital and where it is generally far harder to achieve the markers of success and happiness that most ordinary people aspire to. These are the ‘genetic markers’ of the great majority of people who walk through the doors of the drug service in which I work. Hard? Yes. Worthwhile? Yes. Not only would this help ameliorate drug problems but simultaneously improve the excess rates of mental health problems, unplanned pregnancies, youth offending, physical health problems and shortened life expectancies that characterise these populations. Why oh why do policy wonks continue to treat people with drug problems as though they are guinea pigs on which we can consider conducting such silly experiments! It is insulting and demeaning. Of course there are exceptions but people with drug problems are overwhelmingly just ordinary people like the rest of us trying to get by and make sense of things, but living in environments with largely unregulated drug markets and very adverse opportunities. If we can’t recognise the stupidity of another policy ‘quick fix’ in this context, there’s little hope for us.

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  • 33. At 10:54am on 20 Jan 2009, Spiny Norman wrote:

    Thank god for Kenneth Clarke! I loathe his politics, but at least he gives the impression of being a human being rather than a sanitised control freak, like most politicians today.

    I tend to the view that it IS the Government's job to ensure that the trains run on time (at an affordable price) and to keep the drains clean (not to privatise the job to foreign companies).

    It is NOT their job to regulate our private behaviour.

    Sure, they should protect us from drug-crazed muggers but, in truth, they are a product of the "War on drugs". Legalise the lot of it, and let them get on with their own self-destruction as consenting adults.

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  • 34. At 11:04am on 20 Jan 2009, SheffTim wrote:

    Various drug treatments are already used to treat Bipolar illness, epilepsy, Parkinsons, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, psychosis and so on. Almost any substance that can change behaviour can cause harm if used in the wrong amount or frequency of dosing, or in a bad combination, but as neuroscience understands more about the brain, and the effects these treatments have on patients is studied, it is likely these will become more effective and 'precise'.
    I imagine some treatments are administered to mental health patients without their full consent (can someone in psychosis really understand and make an informed decision?), is this any different to administering a medication to a drug addict that's under the influence of drugs?

    On a related issue I also came across this. It's a bit of a chicken and egg, but young males with mental health/emotional problems are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol, which of course can make their condition worse. It has to be said that none of the street drinkers I see can be considered happy, well adjusted folk so there could be something in this.

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  • 35. At 11:36am on 20 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #29 Peter_Sym wrote:

    "Errr... lots of people buy (almost) pure ethanol rather than beer. Vodka is basically 40% ethanol and water andnot much else. Are you suggesting that because beer is available no-one buys vodka?"

    No, I'm suggesting that because beer and vodka are available and regulated, we don't go making moonshine (with god-knows-what in it) or buying industrial ethanol (very very bad for you and illegal).

    And if spirits over 20% were banned I still think most people wouldn't bother with them moonshine/industrial alcohol), after a bit of whining about it.

    However, ban alcohol all together and look what happens - people drink poison distilled in old radiators.

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  • 36. At 12:00pm on 20 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    How about a law that removes drugs out of the hands of children?
    I love my herb who has the right to tell me i cant use it no one.

    Ill start here with my first written rights to use cannabis and alcohol.

    Isa:18:4: For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.

    Isa:18:5: For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches.

    The man made drugs are another matter cocaine and heroin again should be controlled but not by the public but by chemists and doctors. making a vaccine is just another diversion from the truth and total failure in the single treaty on narcotics and the extension of that MODA 71. Were in trouble and no one cares. Mark had a blog that broke, it showed the price and the affect of alcohol on us in the last 100 years. I'M not surprised it was broken as it showed without doubt that the problems we have with alcohol and now cocaine which is widely used along side alcohol began in 1968/9 just before cannabis was added to MODA71, by 1972 the UK saw a 3000%+ increase in alcohol abuse and consumption with a price fall to match this enforced trend.

    Another point that should be considered carefully is the long term affects on the mental health of people who are given such vaccines will anything provide pleasure will the brain be able to cope with no reward system. As someone who has reduced brain chemistry that needs balancing on a daily basis since a very young age this is scary stuff that has no evidence that it works long term and little or no evidence over how such drugs will affect the person in the long run.

    last comment from the guardian post ...
    'Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said: "Clearly too few people who misuse drugs are being identified and admitted to drug rehabilitation courses early on, which has contributed to this worrying rise in admissions to hospitals. As drugs get stronger, the harm they are doing to young people's mental health is increasing. The government needs to wake up to the scale of the problem."

    Question that they should be answering is why have drugs got stronger? Oh that's right the government is to weak to to stop it to cow towed to the voter to take real and true action to stop the misuse of drugs, to say to the criminal world "these are our drugs we control them we care about the user and the users health" but no they don't care they like harmful drugs and all that goes with them. they like the headlines the war on drugs the war on the public on the innocent children and communities that are plagued with them.

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  • 37. At 12:05pm on 20 Jan 2009, bigsammyb wrote:

    Where will labours agenda end? Believe it or not there are lots of things in society we could do without but would rather hold on to if it means we retian freedom.

    Taking drugs is a free choice and the idea of singling out genetically pre desposed babies for vaccination is a step too far.

    Whats next? Genetic profiling for general criminality? Maybe if a babies considered to be genetically violent they would remove its arms so it can't harm anyone in adulthood?

    See where this can go?

    Lets keep drug addicts, paedos, traffic accidents' terrorism and all the other nasty things if it means we have liberty and freedom.

    Remember that word? FREEDOM it eclipses all other things.

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  • 38. At 12:12pm on 20 Jan 2009, pigsnoutman123 wrote:

    This is basically a nicotine patch, which should be used on existing addicts, if convensional treatments have failed. Rehabilitation fails miserably quite a lot of the time, and anti-drug campaigns only really make drugs more risky/expensive meaning addicts are much more likely to be involved in crime.
    This (when it works) should be welcomed as a cure that might actually work

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  • 39. At 12:38pm on 20 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 40. At 12:53pm on 20 Jan 2009, doktorg wrote:

    Solving the drugs "problem" by way of a vaccine is basically irrelevant. Most of the drugs sold at the moment have little or no active "drugs" in them at all - it's a giant placebo experiment. Those ho lived through the 90's and watched the way that MDMA progressively vanished out of the little pills sold by the tens of millions as "E" will understand this very directly.

    The hidden issues here are two-fold. One is that the whole social misbehaviour issue surrounding drugs has already moved on, from pharmaceuticals (fake or real) and on to copyright theft - all the MP3 and DVD sharing social networks I see, operate like drug social networks.

    The other issue is that the War on Drugs takes up the efforts of hundreds of thousands of idiot busybodies. If there are no drugs for them to endlessly, pointlessly and expensively chase after, then they will turn their attention to something else. Do we really want that?

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  • 41. At 1:28pm on 20 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:

    "The other issue is that the War on Drugs takes up the efforts of hundreds of thousands of idiot busybodies. If there are no drugs for them to endlessly, pointlessly and expensively chase after, then they will turn their attention to something else. Do we really want that?"


    Let them pick something else and be chased off that as well, let them move from issue to issue, bleating their shrill crys of "protect us, remove our freedoms for our own good", until thw wider population realise that that is what they are, interfering busybodies that see anything other than hard work and religious monogamy as immoral.

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  • 42. At 2:32pm on 20 Jan 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #36 "The man made drugs are another matter cocaine and heroin again should be controlled but not by the public but by chemists and doctors"

    Heroin and cocaine aren't man made. They come from plants (poppies and coca plant) and are merely refined to concentrate the active ingredient (in the same way wine is concentrated into brandy). I'd argue that the difference between refining opium into heroin is pretty much the same as concentrating cannabis resin.

    Your argument seems to be that your drugs are O.K but other peoples fixes are wrong.

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  • 43. At 2:42pm on 20 Jan 2009, Michael wrote:

    Mindlessly disobeying 'authority' simply for the sake of it is just as bad as mindlessly following it. Make up your own minds and do what you think is best!

    As for the vaccine, well, I'll bet a lot of drug users attempting to quit would take it if they could. Unless we're discussing forced vaccination here... Which seems more than a little bit sinister...

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  • 44. At 2:52pm on 20 Jan 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    There seems to be 3 competing models for drugs...

    1) Crime model

    2) Illness model

    3) Not a problem model

    Perhaps that lack of clarity - particularly in the message young people are hearing - is the reason the powers that be are getting no where.

    Perhaps they should pick one model and stick to it.

    Personally I don't think that promoting the illness model helps very much, except in creating work for both sides of the drugs industry.

    Don't forget it's not just dealers making money from drugs, there are huge numbers of doctors, social workers, drug workers etc making a very good living from this.

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  • 45. At 3:44pm on 20 Jan 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    To be honest this whole debate is irrelevant anyway: heroin isn't immunogenic. If it was then heroin addicts would develop their own antibodies to it in the same way that we develop antibodies within a few days of catching flu.

    When you remember that in 50 years we haven't managed to cure the common cold & in 20 years of multi-billion pound research we still haven't got any nearer to an HIV vaccine you realise the chances of anyone making a reliable heroin vaccine are none existent.

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  • 46. At 4:23pm on 20 Jan 2009, laser_guy wrote:

    jayfurneaux I call BS.

    Theres no way in 40 years mankind has managed to increase a plants potency by 40x. This is absurd. What you are claiming is that in 3000+ years of cultivation and breeding mankind could only manage a measly 1-4% and that somehow in the 40 years since the 60's we have manged to get it to 20%+???

    Also, I WILL say I have smoked it for 10 years and I'm fine. I know at least 40 other people who have done so also, all of these are fine. If one in four persons are susceptible as you claim shouldn't I have seen at least one person has fallen victim to schitzophenia?

    I do know one person who is now schitzophrenic and that was because of far too much LSD at a music festival. The smallest amount of 'pot' does send him over the edge now so I do believe there is some link. What is most likely is that the precondition is triggered by pot and would have happened at a later date with every single case had they never smoked it.

    No one is being protected by keeping it illegal and in the hands of criminals. We should go Dutch and 'make pot boring' so kids aren't interested in it.

    That way they may stay away from all illegal drugs as the general concensous is that they are bad. Rather than this silly 3 tier system which says, yes they are all bad but some are worse than others and you cant do any of them but alot of people take some and are fine with it but the other ones that people take are really bad and you need to believe us as we have experience and know whats best for you but we have never taken them ourselves.

    What happens when the kid finds out that pot isnt really all that bad and might actually be fun? What do they then think when they see ecstacy / amphetamine, and then cocaine.. and then the problems start.

    Holland is doing a much better job than us. Alot of other European countries have relaxed pot laws. Pot smokers are an easy target for the police who should be out catching thieves and violent criminals. At the very least they should concentrate on the hard drug dealers before even thinking of going after pot smokers.

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  • 47. At 6:35pm on 20 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    One more post on the link between Skunk and the onset of psychosis and schizophrenia.
    This is from a website run by and for those suffering from schizophrenia and those that support them.

    'Overview: Use of street drugs methamphetamine/marijuana/hash/cannabis and alcohol have been linked with significantly increased probability of developing psychosis and schizophrenia. This link has been documented in over studies done mostly in the UK, Australia and Sweden over the past 20 years.'

    Follow the links to find out more.

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  • 48. At 7:35pm on 20 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    No my model is on its use historically and religiously. Cannabis in the form of oil is well represented in the bible for social gatherings to medical healing, withdrawn from the NHS in 1968ish in ointment form.

    do i have to add any chemicals to mine to use it? No its natural from soil to use.

    Putting somthing in your body made with hydrocloric acid is a good argument for not using heroin

    solid herb is made from the dust of the plant. of which there are roughly 7 grades the dust from the various glands that cover the plant. anything else is criminally altered :)

    the alcohol one well again it is totally natural but has become a very large social problem.

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  • 49. At 7:45pm on 20 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    the illness cause is already well backed by both the UK government and the USA government

    Sativex and other such drugs made from crude cannabis are growing in use with doctors again for conditions including MS, Diabetes and Obesity.

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  • 50. At 8:23pm on 20 Jan 2009, wonderchrisheat wrote:

    I think legalisation would solve most "drug problems" - remember Al Capone. However there are many weighty parties with an interest in maintaining the status-quo, to whom the criminalisation/demonisation of the crimeless is irrelevant.

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  • 51. At 10:19pm on 20 Jan 2009, bobsearcy wrote:

    these posts show that brits like recreational drugs. so do americans and i profusely appologise for our government and their puritan policies. their drug of choice incidently is money and the resulting power..sad bob searcy usa

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  • 52. At 10:31pm on 20 Jan 2009, R0b1nsdad wrote:

    Comment #28
    The point is THC levels have risen steeply, along with cases of mental health disorders amongst skunk/weed/bud smokers. BTW, I use to smoke weed
    it too, I gave up. Do some research of your own.

    Only if you compare weed then with skunk now, hash was as strong in the 60's as skunk is now.

    BTW - 4:20 is a factor of 5, not 40.

    I've done plent of research - just not on weed sites, try reading the ACMD report

    8.8 Cannabis use has increased, very substantially, in the UK and other
    countries over the past 35 years. If there is a causal link between
    cannabis use in adolescence and the development of schizophrenia, this
    might be reflected in temporal changes in the incidence and prevalence
    of the disorder.

    8.8.1 In an Australian study [28], the relationship between cannabis
    consumption and the prevalence of schizophrenia was examined in
    cohorts of people born between 1940 and 1979. Despite a steep rise in
    the prevalence of cannabis use, and a corresponding decrease in the
    age of initiation of use, there was no evidence of a significant increase
    in the incidence of schizophrenia. also point out, as I tried to, that when people take lots of different drugs it is difficult to attribute an effect to a single one of them. Nobody argues that speed and acid can give you permanent psychosis. The fact is the link with cannabis is not proven, as this discussion proves.

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  • 53. At 10:49pm on 20 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    #49. SATIVEX is used as a pain relief by some with multiple sclerosis that suffer Neuropathic pain (within the nerves themselves). It isn't yet licenced in the UK (it is in Canada), it does contain small quantities of artificially synthesized CBD, THC and alcohol. Quite why it is relieves Neuropathic pain in MS isn't yet known.

    HOWEVER known side-effects of SATIVEX include fainting episodes as well as feeling drunk, disturbance in attention, dizziness, somnolence, disorientation, dissociation and euphoric mood, it can cause symptoms such as changes of mood, decrease in cognitive performances and memory, decrease in ability to control drives and impulses, and alteration of the perception of reality, particularly altered time sense. Psychiatric symptoms include anxiety, illusions, changes in mood, and paranoid ideas. In such cases doctors withdraw this treatment.
    Doctors won't prescribe to patients with a history of schizophrenia or any other psychotic disorder as well as heart disease etc.

    The average cannabis plant contains about 60 components and 400 chemicals. Some of these appear to be contradictory and work against each other in the human brain. If isolated, separated and synthesized they may well be useful to medicine, but much research has yet to be done.

    Sativex contains controlled doses of just 2 of cannabis's 60 components and 400 chemicals. Not quite the same as having a spliff of Skunk every day.

    Cannabidiol (CBD) is the only non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.
    It is Cannabidiol (CBD) that seems to produce pain relief in inflammatory disorders etc. It is this single component that gives Cannabis its 'painkilling medicinal use' reputation. It can now be synthesized in a lab.
    Cannabidiol (CBD) also appears to have a role to play in the treatment of convulsion, inflammation, anxiety, nausea and cancer cell growth, obesity (it acts as an appetite suppressant) and nicotine dependence; like all chemicals CBD is not a wonder 'cure all', but just another tool in the medical tool kit.

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  • 54. At 11:01pm on 20 Jan 2009, SensibleLogic wrote:

    Ref comment 28 and to clarify comment 21. There are several logical aspects to the suggestions I made earlier.

    If addicts can buy cheaply from safe sources they are less likely to go black market for unknown substances.

    Many kids currently get hooked through "freebies"...pushed by suppliers who know they'll get their monies worth once addicted.

    Many youths get addicted because the peer pressure to try it is so strong and then the first high was so good they want more of it.

    Without an incentive to get people hooked the pushers will redirect their efforts. The "legal sources" are not going to push, only supply addicts. Ergo logical assumption that in time the number of addicts will reduce.

    Sure, the criminal gangs currently pushing drugs would move on and find new crimes to commit perhaps in the same way as the removal of prohibition (on alcohol) in the US predominantly took out the illicit stills and associated supply routes and developed into... the drugs culture?

    Once addicts are in the system, various options can be used to assist them. Of course there are reasons people turn to drugs other than those I've noted above. But if we can remove the distractions of where they get their next fix, what is in their next fix, and how they pay for it; maybe we can start to find out why they became addicts and help to address the underlying root causes. We can also use a combination of education and even peer pressure to encourage the existing addicts into recovery and rehabilitation. Who knows perhaps recovery will be quicker when we support them because they're less likely to be homeless/sex slaves/criminals due to the cost of their fix therefore they may be able to hold down a normal life whilst in the system of supported recovery.

    In terms of who will fund it? Think of the pressure release on the criminal justice system - not just the police in terms of locating drugs pushers and attempting to infiltrate the supply routes, but also the victims of the addicts - burglary, assault etc to fund the habits. Add to that the costs of CPS and Legal Aid (on both sides); add to that the healthcare costs of treating addicts who've taken a bad fix - not everyone is fortunate enough to be ingesting dog wormer when they thought they bought E! Then of course there are the associated secondary healthcare issues and costs of shared needles, poor nutrition and sex slaves. Add to that the reduction in cost of feeding, housing and babysitting those at HMP as a result of "decriminalising the supply through the back door". And of course the funding that is currently going into fighting drugs through education rather than action.... don't you think the redirected cash would more than fund the initial programme?

    So, with no incentive for pushers to get people hooked on the basis that once they are, they'll go legal for the supply; there will be less likelihood of new addicts - it won't stop completely you only have to look at the statistics on addiction to prescription drugs to know that, but it will stop the exponential input.

    Couple that to legitimising the crop growth - initially for supply to governments for the programme and then through controlled redirection of the production to crops more beneficial to their farmers/community again subsidised as necessary to ensure that is a sustainable change and again the element of organised crime will be eliminated in time because it's no longer commercially viable for them to stay in that business.

    You may well be right that some addicts will choose not to accept assistance to recover; just as some people in high society can hold down jobs despite high addiction to their drugs of choice. But if we don't have huge numbers of additional addicts, wouldn't it be a small price to pay to keep the existing ones in their habit til their body gives out on them? Indeed is that any different from supporting chronically ill members of society who may have become ill as a matter of lifestyle choices (think cirrhosis as a result of excessive alcohol; heart disease as a result of diet/exercise issues; COPD as a result of smoking etc)?

    And no, before anyone thinks I'm having a dig, I'm not suggesting that everyone with a chronic illness brought it on themselves but some did.

    I accept it won't be like flicking a light switch, but the current policies aren't working and ludicrous suggestions about mass vaccination based on gene definition doesn't feel like a step in the right direction when there are less intrusive, more obvious measures that could be taken. I mean what next - a vaccination to stop people driving faster than the speed limit? Or vaccinate against those most likely to leave school without qualifications and spend their life on social security as a matter of choice rather than getting a job? Perhaps even a vaccination against people likely to vote Tory or LibDem in future elections....

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  • 55. At 11:25pm on 20 Jan 2009, chris wrote:

    jayfurneaux quotes from the widely discredited IoS hysteria that today's cannabis is up to 40 times stronger than in the 60s.

    Ben Goldacre looked at the data and found this claim to be untrue :

    CBD is psychoactive. It's a mild sedative, which also has anti-psychotic properties.

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  • 56. At 06:08am on 21 Jan 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    I hope that a vaccine could solve problems for people are affecting with using drugs...
    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 57. At 07:41am on 21 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    Post #55.
    If you look at my post #28 you'll see I have revised my figure downwards (I quoted from memory), but I maintain that modern strains of skunk are much stronger than cannabis of 40yrs ago, because the amount of THC have risen. (See also my posts #47 and #53.)

    In #28 I quoted figures from a site for Cannabis plant growers:
    "Some sources say that marijuana with THC content of 1% to 4% was considered good dope by most Americans in the 1960's. In the year 2007, the good commercial grade marijuana available to most users had a THC content of about 5% to 10% and premium Sinsemilla was about 10% to 20% THC. Some reports have marijuana with a THC content of over 25% being produced by some advanced hydroponic growers."

    Popular strains amongst regular smokers I know include Blueberry (TCH = 19.5%) and Peacemaker (TCH 14.0%).
    (BTW: I used to smoke weed too, then gave up. Keep an open mind of this, if you smoke you'll know it's powerful stuff - full of many chemicals. Of course it affects the brain, that's why its smoked.)

    What is now difficult to deny is that there is growing evidence from a number of sources of a link between cannabis use and those being treated for mental health issues, particularly those with with a genetic vulnerability to such illness.

    Do some research of your own. Google:
    skunk + schizophrenia
    cannabis + schizophrenia
    THC + schizophrenia
    cannabis + mental health
    and so on.

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  • 58. At 08:40am on 21 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    may i also suggest

    endocannaboids + birth
    endocannaboids + mental health
    endocannaboids + old age

    jay the side affect of sativex is slight compared to other more common drugs that are used to treat the current illnesses that it is being trialed for.

    but none of that is at question here. the studies and all other papers all report is very bad for the brain of young people who are already at max potential for brain growth and memory creation through endocannaboids.

    what is at question here is the law you could almost compare the problem to the harm of knife crime in the grand scheme of things. Only its okay for young people to use drugs and to harm themselves with them. Its okay that they can sell them to each other. To reduce harm all drugs used by the public bought through the public should be licenced and distributed through monitored means should they not?.

    one last note cannabis has not got stronger, land based plants from India, Africa and many other other parts of the world can naturally reach 15-20% THC when the male plants are removed from the grow areas, as the plant produces more glands and stronger chemicals in order to convert a female plant to a male plant so it can complete its life cycle. Seeded bud disappeared from sale about 15 years ago, this was the low THC version that so many people like to say was the only herb about.

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  • 59. At 09:55am on 21 Jan 2009, chris wrote:

    jayfurneaux : cannabis of 1-4 % THC is either ditchweed or bricks with a high seed and stalk content. This has never been considered good dope by US or any other users. The original skunk and various other strains were developed in California in the late 60s onwards by connoisseurs who were fed up with the rubbish on the market.

    If there was a causal rather than correlational link between cannabis use and schizophrenia, then prevalence of the disease would have increased by several times over the last 40 years.

    Prohibition is a counter-productive fraud, which actually has the effect of increasing the numbers of young people who use drugs. Unfortunately, scaremongers like yourself, the Daily Mail & IoS produce a climate in which a rational science-based approach is ignored in favour of political posturing.

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  • 60. At 11:11am on 21 Jan 2009, SteveRolles wrote:

    The idea of drug vaccines has been around for ages, but years of research have yet produce the products that the child vaccine idea requires.

    There are products that prevent certain drugs from working, like naltrexone which is brilliantly effective at blocking the effects of heroin, but this isn’t a vaccine that you can give to children. It has to be taken orally every day, or delivered in controlled doses from a subcutaneous or stomach implant. There’s also Antabuse which is given to alcoholics that makes them vomit if they drink alcohol, but again that’s an entirely different concept to a vaccine, and these things are taken as part of treatment programmes rather than as prophylactics.

    The new(ish) cocaine ‘vaccine’ works more like a classical disease vaccine, developing antibodies that will bind to cocaine molecules in the blood and in theory preventing them crossing the blood brain boundary and getting the user high (something similar may be on the cards for nicotine). The BBC covered this story back in 2004, and you can read about the product TA-CD, produced by the company Xenova here. The research, perhaps unsurprisingly, has been funded by NIDA, and there are some fairly positive reports of outcomes when used for problematic relapsing cocaine users. There may be a limited place in the drug treatment for such products, but that is an awful long way from mass vaccination of babies (on whom is yet to be tested anyway).

    I went to a Royal Society of Medicine conference focusing on cocaine a year or so back, and I asked a panel of the world’s top cocaine and addiction boffins what they thought of the cocaine vaccine idea. They raised several key objections. One was that it might potentially prevent some legitimate medicines from working, since cocaine and various related drugs (mostly ending in ‘caine’) are still used today, mostly in local anesthesia for dentistry and ophthalmology. Even though there is not yet a vaccine for heroin the same problems would apply if it is developed. Rendering opiates ineffective – the implication of vaccinating all children against heroin - would be potentially disasterous, given that opiates remain the most widely used, powerful, effective and safe pain killers in the doctor's armoury. Heroin (diamorphine) is often given to pregnant women in childbirth, and I was given it a few years back when I had my appendix out. I would be pretty annoyed if I had had to suffer agonizing post-operative pain because of being vaccinated against becoming a problematic drug using offender 26 years previously, a career path I honestly have no interest in.

    More worryingly was the suggestion from the boffins that real problem users would potentially resort to taking massive doses to overwhelm the vaccine’s immune response and achieve the desired high, in doing so increasing consumption and toxic risks.

    Giving drug vaccines to children is profoundly unethical

    Most of the hysteria about vaccines is media fueled nonsense (witness the MMR/autism debacle for example), but there are potential risks involved whenever you give drugs to people, especially children and especially infants. Aside from the risk, and even if there was none, vaccines would still take you into the legal/ethical quagmire of informed consent, similar to the issues around random drug testing of children in schools.
    There is also the more contentious issue of whether the state can impose private morality by denying people rights over their recreational choices and their own bodies. Does the state have the right to proscribe certain pleasures to consenting adults, if that is what they choose? Especially if such activities are decriminalised in the future as they inevitably will be. Would we mass-vaccinate against legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, not associated with offending to fund a habit? Would politicians be putting themselves forward for alcohol vaccinations?. Given that it would be impossible to know which children would become drug using offenders (you couldn’t, for example, just vaccinate poor people) you would have to vaccinate everybody regardless of whether they are the minority who go onto use illegal drugs, or the minority of them whose use becomes problematic. Like the drug laws generally, you would be penalising the majority for the sins, if you want to call them that, of a minority. Its a very different proposition to vaccinating against contagious diseases. Why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy a cup of coca tea because of a violent crack addict?.

    Lots of very difficult to answer questions.

    Even if vaccines worked it wouldn’t prevent problematic drug use, or offending

    Vaccinating against a drug does not vaccinate against the desire for intoxication. If cocaine was no longer effective because of a population wide vaccine programme then the demand for stimulants would simply be met by other drugs, amphetamine perhaps or even, shock horror, methamphetamine. If people could no longer escape into opiates then we would inevitably see a huge rise in problem drinking and/or benzodiazepine and tranquiliser use. Maybe we could vaccinate against those to, but we couldn’t vaccinate against all 250 drugs scheduled under the UN drug conventions, and the 1000s of other prescription, over the counter drugs and unlicensed drugs that can be recreationally used and misused to varying degrees. Can we vaccinate against glue sniffing? The more you think about it the more of a ludicrous proposition it becomes. That said it is no less bonkers than the idea that eradicating certain plants from the world would stop people using drugs, even if it was possible, which it isn't.
    Only a small proportion of drug users become problematic and end up offending as a result of their use. This offending is mostly to pay the over inflated price of illegal drugs, so if the main aim of a drug vaccine programme is to reduce crime, you would effectively using a pharmacological solution to solve a problem created by the policy of prohibition. There’s a much better ‘vaccination’ against prohibition and its called ‘legally regulated drug markets’ (patent pending).

    The social, economic, and physiological factors that underlie problematic drug use and offending are many and complex. The idea that there is some pharmacological magic bullet that can sort it all out is absurd. These factors include social deprivation, mental illness, histories of abuse and being in care, having one or more drug dependent parent, poor education, lack of opportunity, homelessness, unemployment and so on. There are no vaccinations for any of these things as yet.

    To be honest I don’t really buy this story, which I’m sure is either mistaken or spun into newsworthyness by the Standard/Mail. I don’t think that even our drug-war obsessed Government would give the child drug vaccines idea more than the most fleeting of consideration, it is so spectacularly impractical and stupid. Of course that doesn’t mean they won’t suggest it anyway regardless of whether think its a goer or not - to grab a few headlines and make it look as if they are doing something ‘tough’ to deal with the ‘drug menace’ (sniffer dogs and random drug testing in schools anyone?). I doubt it though.

    If drug vaccines have any use at all it should be to provide a litmus test of policy makers and opinion formers; anyone who suggests vaccinating children against drugs as a genuine proposition for dealing with the drug problem immediately forfeits all intellectual credibility and should never be taken seriously again. Ever.

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  • 61. At 11:20am on 21 Jan 2009, Ernie wrote:


    "What is now difficult to deny is that there is growing evidence from a number of sources of a link between cannabis use and those being treated for mental health issues, particularly those with with a genetic vulnerability to such illness."

    Actually it's very easy to deny when you look at the actual studies, that say there is a link between cannabis use and schizophrenia. 1% of people experience symptoms in their lifetime, this rises to 1.7% amongst cannabis users.

    The study explicitly stated that the results in no way supported a causative link as it was impossible to tell if cannabis made one more susceptible to schizophrenia or if people suffering from schizophrenia were more likely to seek out and try cannabis.

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  • 62. At 12:12pm on 21 Jan 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    Hi commnity criminal, chis and ya'll, I doubt anyone is going to produce a conclusive piece of evidence today that will 'prove' this cannabis/schizophrenia argument one way or the other, so this is my last post on it.

    I've been smoking dope on and off over 30yrs, my personal judgement is also that it has got stronger over the years. (I stopped around 3 yrs ago.)
    Back in the 'old' days it was always resin (heat gently and crumble into rolley), typical strengths of Moroccan 4%-7% THC. Lebanese and Pakistani resin up to 10%. I agree cannabis oil can contain much larger amounts of THC but was much harder to get.
    In my city resin is now unobtainable - the market is now all weed, produced on commercial scale in houses. There were fours such farms raided in my city last year that I know of.

    Weed that has been pollinated by a male plant is the weakest form (with around 5% THC) and rarely seen now. Then you have Sensimilla strains (skunk) grown without the presence of male plant so the plant focuses on resin (THC) production instead of seeds, this contains around 15% THC (plus\minus 5%) and is now the commonest form of weed sold. Those that grow Blueberry claim a strength of 19.5% (It is strong, I could barely move after a couple for draws.)
    The frequency and amount of weed smoked comes into it too. I know several people that smoke weed throughout their day, every day.

    When I first came across this I also disbelieved it. But having looked at a lot of the sites (for and against) I do now think that skunk use and psychotic disorders are correlated, particularly for those with a pre-disposition for schizophrenia or a family history of mental health problems, especially if they start smoking in their teens.

    If you are a long time smoker and your family has no such history then you're probably OK; but you also will know that all drugs cause changes in behaviour, mood, thinking etc.
    Personally I can even see a case for legalising a mild resin or attempting to cap a legal strength along with health warnings, but the 'legalise or not' issue isn't what I'm arguing here - it's the mental health issue, don't discount it just because you like a spliff. Like alcoholism, just because your not prone doesn't mean no-one is. As legalisation isn't an option at present I believe in informing people about possible risks.

    I'm unconvinced about the case for legalising all drugs for reasons I put in post #28. (No-one's answered those yet either.)
    I can't see a clear way of doing it, sympathetic though I am to the Swiss model of supplying heroin to really long-term addicts. (Can't see it working with crack tho.)

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  • 63. At 12:14pm on 21 Jan 2009, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #60 read my post #45. Our immune system is designed to produce antibodies to invading bacteria and viruses. Antibody production is in response to antigen ( which are 9 or 15 aminoacid sequences) processing and presentation. Cocaine, heroin etc are not proteins so therefore are not immunogenic. If they were then addicts would develop their own immune response to the drugs within a few days of using it.

    The best that can be achived is by targeting some parts of the pathways involved in getting high. That means producing antibodies against your own tissues which is incredibly difficult to do and dangerous if you succeed. Any succcesful treatment will need to be incredibly clever and almost certainly gene therapy based not vaccine based.

    Speaking as someone who makes vaccines I'm more than happy for the US government to give me money to attempt to make these things but I can promise you they won't work.

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  • 64. At 12:23pm on 21 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    also not pointed out in any study that i have read so far is the proportion of growth of population in the same time frame.

    ie say in 1970 the figure was measured as 1% of the number the number of living people who use cannabis in which case can the figure be further inflated, or does it represent the current amount of people, which has grown over the same time period.
    If it is to represent the current amount of people then cases are falling in accordance to population growth and can be deflated to ½ of 1% of the reported cases.

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  • 65. At 12:28pm on 21 Jan 2009, Daverourke wrote:

    Well I used to use drugs frm the age of 14 ish, by 16 I was mokin weed ever day and by 22 Addicted to Heroin, homeless living on the street.
    Althoughmy life was in complete chaos and I was hurtin the people I loved most I didnt want to stop using drugs. It was my choice. It wasnt peer pressure or cool I made a choice. My drug use ruined y life. I would be up at 6 am to have my first hit of the day just so I could function normally.
    With out using drugs, I am not sure if I could have survived living and sleeping rough It was a necessary escape atthe time.
    My girlfriend at the time fell pregnat in 2006 ad our daughter [Personal details removed by Moderator] was born in 2007. This was the only thing in all my years of drug use that made me want to stop. I wnt to rehab with my daughter and girlfriend however she lef a month latre an I was left to bring p our daughter alone.
    With out my experiences on drugs and on the stree I wouldnt have done it but, It gave me the drive to prove that I culd nd bring my daughter up the best I possibly could without using Drugs. I hae been out of rehab almost12 months now and clean of drugs almost 18 months.
    My time spent using drug hasnot gone to waste. I am a much better, stronger and more driven person, I am at college and work with school kids sharing my experiences so they can make more informed decission. Althoughquite often feel Im fightin a loosing battle. A Vaccination sound like a good idea altho everyone deserves the right too make mistakes.
    Something needs to be done but we need to look deeper at the society we live in as I believe our nations drug use is more deeply rooted than we realise. We nee to ake social changes from grass rots, especialy during school years. Too manyteachers put intelligent students in a box and compare them too others I have learnt from my experience that put people in a box and they will either conform or fight it and rebel. Until we are willing to speak to ex dug users and curret drug users about treatment. No progress will be made until we are force to vaccinate our chilldren.
    I am an addict, I am clean and I have been there. I know more about drugs and drug use just from 6 months rehab than a committethat have never hit rock bottm and do not know how it feels to need something that u can see destroying you. I have a voice, knowledge and want to do something about this problem, Why does nobody want t hear ad want to fob us off and force us into something we do notwant. We have a right and freedom of speech, this is no use if no one hears. We also have the right o choose our own path and this, however right or wrong it is, takes these rights away from our chilldren, our future!

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  • 66. At 12:49pm on 21 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Jay like myself you seem to be mid life with experience of life and like myself have come to the conclusion that it is harmful to a proportion of society that use it from a young age.

    But the continued demonetisation of it is harmful to the rest of society and the medical benefits that it has had for over 5000 years. This government's scaremonger aproach has put back development of very useful drugs from the plant which are less harmful than the man made alternatives that we currently use.

    We already struggle for anti-biotic's the plant has a very strong one but looses most of it at flowering. Anyways my last post on this unless someone posts something totally noneducational. :)

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  • 67. At 1:54pm on 21 Jan 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    and then a vaccine for crime, lying, being ugly, not doing what u are told, not believing the current political party. What happens when ppl figure out how to vaccinate the vaccine, back too square one, anyway lots of the gov friends will get rich off another Gov cash cow. job done

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  • 68. At 8:18pm on 21 Jan 2009, MadSandyAlmond wrote:

    Coming from a family where both my Father-in-law and Son-in-law choose alcohol over their family, I would be happy to give up my ability to get high and more than happy to have my grandchildren vaccinated since they likely carry the gene. If you've ever been part of a situation were a good husband, friend and father gets up one morning and says “if I can't drink here then I won't be back” you will likely understand why. If you've not been part of such, consider yourself lucky. Nothing except death affects a family as much as addiction. I speak from experience death is easier dealt with because death only happens once but the effects of addiction just keep going on and on.

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  • 69. At 08:50am on 22 Jan 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    MadSandyAlmond the only way i will give up my addiction gene is thru death, i also speak from experience, my grandfather and i experienced addiction problems and my father died from an unrelated illness. If alcoholism is the worse thing ur family has gone thru lucky u, try living with sexual/physical abuse, look half way across the world and see how some ppl live there, is alcohol really the second worst thing too happen to a family, arn't other addictions like gambling just as harmful? try telling a family who's little girl has been kidnapped that alcohol addiction is worse. I choose life, with all its ups and downs

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  • 70. At 12:49pm on 22 Jan 2009, FredSmithe wrote:

    Many have mentioned that vaccinating against opiates would be a bad idea, as indeed it would.

    However, if we can tailor the target of the vacine, perhaps there are better targets:

    a: Vaccinate against addiction. You can have as much fun as you want with drugs, but you don't absolutely need to kill someone to get another fix tomorrow.

    b: Vaccinate against pleasure. Most people take drugs to get a sensation of pleasure. Simply vaccinate people so that they cannot feel pleasure.

    c: Vaccinate people so that they are tempermentally incapable of becoming politicians.

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  • 71. At 11:40am on 23 Jan 2009, gentle-ginger wrote:

    I have worked in the area of addiction for many years and the prospect of vaccinating people against developing addictions to drugs will, in my opining rob people of making their own choices. Society is now programmed for the quick fix instead of learning from experience how to apply control. There are many reasons why people develop addictions, psychological, social and physiological, therefore there would have to be many vaccines develoed to deal with these variables. My personal beliefs include education with substances being introduced at an early age, what goes into the body has an effect, if you eat too much suger you will get fat and might develop diabetes. Drugs education can be taught in every subject of the curriculum, its history, geography, the politics behind it, from a scientific angle ect. So instead of having to consider vaccinating our future generations with substitute DRUGS lets educate them and their parents and keep their options open to make wise choices for themselves. While the Home Office is the Government Dept that controls funding drug treatments this will never happen as their prime concern is crime reduction - a great vote catcher. Funding needs to be controlled by Health & Education where the prime targets are to improve both the physical and mental health of the nation. Prevention is better than cure.

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  • 72. At 07:55am on 26 Jan 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    As of today an 80 quid fine fixes the problem. So no need to worry anymore new labour has won the day.........

    I Liked the fact that the BBC had a report on this morning about the c+-b affair of the herb with 2 experts and an ex policeman stating what we responsible users already know ....

    It bad for kids and the government is bad for kids, tales of how its sold in schools all quite amusing as it showed the total failure in drug policies.

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  • 73. At 11:02am on 26 Jan 2009, Aikonawena wrote:

    Hoi-Leave my brain alone!! It is mine ,mine ,all mine ,and not to be tampered with.It is fundamental to being human to rebel against being told what to do. We have minds so we can use them to make our own choices.

    Everything they ban becomes MORE attractive, by default of their interfering with our rights of choice and our ability to be rational and take responsibility.

    I hate governments as nobody in them is really qualified to talk ,let alone run my life for me.

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  • 74. At 5:40pm on 04 Feb 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    For those that missed it Horizons Cannabis Evil weed? documentry was fantastic well worth the watch. maybe i can talk about the HO and GW freely now.

    It will clear up a lot of this rubbish about vacines for drug addictions for those who want such things and will prob cause a major drought in the next few weeks as millions of sick people hit the Doc's and the streets in search of a little bit of life.

    Thanks BBC :)

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