A vaccine for alcoholism is reportedly underway and is about to go through testing in Chile. The vaccine is similar to the drug Antabuse in that it makes the effects of alcohol unpleasurable upon consumption. When ingested, Antabuse makes a person sick if combined with alcohol. It is often taken as a deterrent because once ingested the otherwise tempted drinker knows that they will fall ill if they try to consume alcohol. The vaccine works in the same way – essentially creating an instant hangover including headaches and nausea if alcohol is consumed.
The concept behind the new vaccine and Antabuse is to deter alcoholics from picking up the first drink. Dr. Juan Asenjo, Director of the Institute for Cell Dynamics and Biotechnology at Universidad de Chile who worked on the vaccine says, “If we can solve the chemical, the basic part of the problem, I think it can help quite a bit.”
However once an alcoholic has crossed the line into addiction, sickness is usually inevitable anyway. A common phenomenon in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is to not pick up the first drink because it will lead to more drinks and more negative effects – including sickness, blackouts and regretful actions. The pain of such suffering that follows the first drink is what brings many alcoholics into alcohol addiction treatment and 12 step programs like AA. Just like Antabuse, the new vaccine may help to initially deter problem drinkers, but a program of recovery is often needed to sustain the desire to abstain from alcohol and drugs.
The lasting effects of the alcohol vaccine are curious because with deterrent drugs like Antabuse and methadone, the addict or alcoholic uses them for the duration that they wish to abstain from opiates or alcohol. Many experience relapses because they can discontinue taking the deterrent drugs when they decide they want to get high. With the vaccine for alcoholism, alcoholics may not have such a choice and therefore may never be able to consume alcohol without getting sick.
While some may have gotten sober via using drugs like Antabuse, hundreds of thousands have gotten sober through addiction treatment programs and a program of recovery. The new vaccine for alcoholism may serve as a surface level deterrent, but deeper level of lasting alcohol addiction recovery is often needed. This is attained through addiction treatment programs that work on the specific issues, traumas and individual circumstances that led to problem drinking and a program of recovery, group support and spirituality that help addicts and alcoholics become free of their addictions.