Cocaine vaccine: could a promising treatment reach addicts in two years?

An experimental cocaine vaccine may help addicts end their addictions by inhibiting the drug's effects on the brain -- that is, preventing the high -- according to a National Institute on Drug Abuse sponsored study released this week. Cocaine addiction, which the Archives of General Psychiatry says "affects 2.5 million Americans annually," has no medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration; fewer than a third of addicts receive treatment, which usually focuses on changing addicts' behavior. A chief researcher on the study estimates that a vaccine could be on the market within two years.

The study, conducted by Yale University School of Medicine and other schools and published in the October Archives of General Psychiatry, found that the vaccine reduced cocaine use in 38 percent of patients studied in a clinical trial. It's "the first successful, placebo-controlled demonstration of a vaccine against an illicit drug of abuse," the study notes.