NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nearly one million Americans have died from drug overdoses in the last two decades, with 70% involving opioids.
Now, an experimental treatment is in the works that could help which involves a vaccine that aims to lessen the effects of oxycodone.
The vaccine targets the chemical makeup of the drug so that a person could produce an antibody to the drug. If they were then to use oxycodone, the drug would not be able to reach the brain to stimulate the pleasure center.
It's currently being tested and researchers hope to expand it to other opioids like fentanyl and heroin.
Here in Nashville, Metro data shows from January to September of last year, there were 540 fatal overdoses. Metro has been proactive in monitoring spikes in overdoses, the last happening in Hermitage in early December when there were three deaths in less than 24 hours.
Columbia University professor Sandra Comer said this new vaccine would provide a safety net for people who relapse since medically-assisted treatments can be effective, but have relapse rates of about 50%.
"If they relapse, the vaccine hopefully will provide still some level of protection, at least against overdose. And maybe an opportunity for us to reengage them in treatment," said Comer.
If you or a loved one are struggling with drug abuse, you can contact the Tennessee Redline, which is available 24/7 at 1-800-889-9789.