Recently, researchers have found a vaccine for one of the more dangerous and widely used drugs out there, bath salts. In this case, don’t think of vaccines that inoculate you from a disease, like those you would get for measles or tuberculosis. It’s really more of a recovery aid for people who have already abused bath salts and are trying to avoid relapse.

Bath salts, or synthetic cathinones, are manmade stimulants. Cathinone is a chemical found in that khat plant, a shrub grown in Africa and the Middle East. People chew khat leaves for the mild stimulant effect. The synthetic version, however, is much more potent. Synthetic cathinones are part of a group of drugs called new psychoactive substances, or NPS. NPS are psychoactive, mind-altering substances that are not regulated and have no legitimate medical use. They are made to mimic the effects of controlled substances and are cheaper alternatives to methamphetamine and cocaine. Some of the side effects are paranoia, hallucinations, panic attacks, agitation, and violent behavior. There are multiple instances of violent incidents linked to bath salts, perhaps the most famous being the “face-eating cannibal” who attempted to chew off another man’s face. Organ failure and deadly overdoses are also possible.

This new vaccine targets two synthetic cathinones – methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and alpha-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (alpha-PVP). Studies done on rodents showed that those who received the vaccine produced large amounts of antibodies that attached to MDPV and alpha-PVP in the blood stream. This caused a decrease in the stimulating effects of MDPV that lasted for months. Such a long-lasting effect could help prevent people from relapsing early in their recovery. Scientists are now looking for ways to prevent MDPV from entering the heart and brain, which would negate reward responses. If you know that a drug won’t cause you to feel any effects, the theory goes, you won’t be tempted to use it anymore.


Unfortunately, it’s not time to hail this vaccine as a miracle drug just yet. For one thing, there have been no tests in humans, and it’s impossible to say whether we would react the same as rats. Something similar happened with a drug that was supposed to act as a vaccine for opioid addiction. Sixteen years of research ended with a vaccine that was effective on animals but proved to be all but useless in humans. Even if the bath salts vaccine does work, we’re years away from being able to use it. All new drugs have to go through three phases of testing with the Food and Drug Administration. Also, the vaccine wouldn’t help prevent the initial addiction or address any cravings or psychological factors. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and a possible ray of hope for those who have completed treatment and are trying to stay on the path to recovery.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.


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