The Anatomy of a High

The idea of using vaccines to fight drug addiction traces its origins back nearly 40 years: Albany Medical College’s Bernard Berkowitz tested whether mice would form antibodies in response to a morphine vaccine, and University of Chicago psychiatrist K.F. Bonese studied the effects of a similar morphine vaccine on heroin self-administration in rhesus macaques.Both teams used an immunogenic protein carrier, bovine serum albumin, as the carrier protein, combined with considerably stronger adjuvants than the alum that is now permitted for use in humans. Berkowitz found that mice produced antibodies that bound morphine and reduced its analgesic efficacy, and Bonese’s vaccine significantly reduced the self-administration of heroin by his primate model organism.

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