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The research involved 115 cocaine abusers also addicted to heroin who sought methadone treatment at a New Haven, Conn. clinic. Methadone treats heroin addiction, not cocaine, but it requires repeat clinic visits. That made it easier for the researchers to work with and track the cocaine abusers, Kosten said.
Over 12 weeks, nearly all participants got five shots of cocaine vaccine or a dummy substance. They were followed for an additional 12 weeks. All participants also attended weekly relapse-prevention therapy sessions, had their blood tested for antibodies and their urine tested for cocaine and heroin.
Overall, 21 vaccine patients -- 38 percent -- developed cocaine antibody levels high enough to prevent a cocaine high. In this group, 53 percent stopped using cocaine more than half the time during the study, versus 23 percent of those with lower antibody levels.
Despite the limited success, the results are exciting and show that the vaccine approach is a good one, said Dr. Kyle Kampman, a University of Pennsylvania addiction researcher who was not involved in the study.
"We need novel approaches because cocaine dependence is a disease that has been very difficult to treat," Kampman said.
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