Posted by: Sara Valente29 JAN 2013
Alcoholism is a debilitating disease that is not only about a physical addiction to alcohol but also a psychological one. Interestingly, I read an article in the Daily Mail about a vaccine that is being produced by researchers in Chile to help combat alcoholism. The vaccine prevents the body from metabolising alcohol and instead produces chemicals to induce symptoms associated with hangovers such as nausea and sickness. Currently, the drug disulfiram does the same thing by accumulating acetaldehyde in the body that precipitates these unpleasant symptoms. However, it hasn’t been wholly successful since it relies on someone taking the oral medication every day and it would be easy for someone to simply stop taking it.
The reason why the vaccine may be promising is that it is effective from six months to a year and its effects cannot be reversed so it will remain in the body much longer. Researchers in Chile have been working on the drug for years but it has now entered pre-clinical stages and could be on the market in the coming years. There is not much information on the vaccine and it does concern me that the point of the vaccine is to ultimately stop drug elimination from the body. From what I’ve learned at university, the importance of a good drug is that it can be appropriately eliminated from the body in order to prevent toxicity. What if a recovering alcoholic was injected with this vaccine and decided they could not stop themselves from drinking? They could suffer serious consequences from not being able to eliminate the alcohol from their body as acetaldehyde builds up to toxic levels.
Though the rationale behind the vaccine is reasonable – to help with the physical addiction to alcohol – I think that proper counselling and the associated psychological problems should be addressed instead.