Coke heads might be able to skip the rehab soon enough.
Vaccine-like shots to keep cocaine abusers from getting high also helped them fight their addiction in the first successful rigorous study of this approach to treating illicit drug use.
The shots didn't work perfectly, but the researchers say their limited success is promising enough to suggest the intriguing vaccine approach could be widely used to treat addiction within several years.
"It is such an important study. It clearly demonstrates ... that it is possible to generate vaccine that could interfere with cocaine actions in the brain," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study.
The cocaine vaccine tries to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies that attach to molecules of the drug and block them from reaching the brain.
In the new study, cocaine-fighting antibodies helped prevent users from getting a euphoric high and led nearly 40 percent of them to substantially cut back or stop cocaine use at least temporarily.
With more than 2 million cocaine abusers nationwide and no federally approved treatment, the results "are good enough — better than having nothing," said lead author Dr. Thomas Kosten of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He developed the vaccine used in the study.
The study appears in October's Archives of General Psychiatry, released Monday.