The opioid epidemic has been a long-known and growing public health tragedy since the 1990s. Over the last three decades, though, the rise in opioid overdose deaths has had three distinct waves.
The first influx began in the 1990s when prescription opioids– made of natural and semi-synthetic opioids– were increasingly prescribed by physicians. In 2010, the second wave started amidst significant overdose deaths that involved heroin.
And finally, in 2013, the third and much more deadly wave began. The culprit was synthetic opioids, specifically those that contained illegally manufactured fentanyl.
According to the CDC, the death toll from these synthetic drugs equaled deaths caused by commonly prescribed opioids and heroin in 2015.
Since then, synthetic opioids have continued to claim more lives year over year and are by far the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths.
Although, a new breakthrough discovery made by researchers at the University of Houston may provide a novel way to curb the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The team, led by Colin Haile– founding member of the UH Drug Discovery Institute– developed a vaccine that can target fentanyl and possibly block the drug’s ability to enter the brain. In turn, the opioid’s “high” would be eliminated.
The researchers are confident that this vaccine could now be used as a relapse prevention tool for people who are trying to stop using opioids.
This is monumental– because even though Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) is treatable, eighty percent of people seeking to get clean will ultimately suffer a relapse.
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