The headline hit me like a cigarette on an empty stomach: nauseous intoxication.
“Nicotine Vaccine Starts Human Trials This Week”
Could it be possible? … One shot in the butt cheek and no more cigarettes? … What about other drug molecules? … There’s something sinister here, I can feel it.
It was a busy night and Fall Quarter had brought on a full relapse. Cigarettes, journalism and stress – my evil triple-addiction that comes at heavy cost to my hairline and lung tissue. The prospect of a silver bullet cure for one of my sinister vices seemed too good to be true.
By nature, I am a much more docile, sex/pot/chocolate man. It is my Holy Trinity of addiction – the great three-in-one. This makes sense because sex, pot and chocolate all go to the same part of the lower brain.
Neuropharmacalogically speaking: a Hershey bar – is a sloppy blow job – is a milky-white bong toke.
College brings out the worst in me and the link between cigarettes, journalism and stress is pure adrenaline. It’s a feedback loop. I write to pay the bills. Writing is stressful so I smoke. Smoking is expensive so the bills are bigger.
The story on the nic vaccine is simple enough: nicotine is a very small molecule and it passes the blood-brain barrier with ease. The immune system can’t recognize it unless you graft it onto a big bacterium and then inject it into the patient. The immune system attacks the vaccine bacteria, kills it and remembers what the nicotine looks like. Any time the patient has a cigarette after he’s received the shot, his white blood cells get to the nicotine before the brain gets any.
It’s not all sunshine and strawberries though. The brain will still crave nicotine for the rest of its life; it just won’t be able to get high. You could give yourself all the lung cancer you wanted and never feel the warm alkaloid glow in your head.
I pondered an even darker side to the vaccine over a Camel Light, flicked the butt into the neighbor’s yard and tracked down Henry Sarria – a crazy Cuban rocket scientist, BMX racer and Nexus columnist who knows about these things.
“Sarria! You’re a smart guy. I have a question for you.”
“Oh God, Downs. What?”
“Does pot have to cross the blood-brain barrier like nicotine?”
Sarria laughed his cool-ass Cuban laugh. “Well, the pot brownies I ate once sure did, and let me tell you…”
The story went on for a bit and I interrupted, ” – so that’s a ‘yes?’ Does that mean they could make a – god forbid – pot vaccine?!”
Sarria’a answer was a devastating affirmative.
“A possible pot vaccine! Oh god, the horror, the humanity! Kids in twenty years could be inoculated at birth against T.B., polio, tetanus, marijuana, cocaine, speed and everything else.”
“I don’t know,” Sarria said, “some addictions are pretty bad news. It could help.”
“Sarria, you’re deluded. On the surface it looks like a swell idea. Save the potential addicts from their future selves: inoculation not incarceration. Except the freaky little future-children will still live in an insane world that demands chemical outlets.
“They’ll end up spinning around in circles like Egyptian sufis, hyperventilating to get up any kind of buzz! They’ll be aggressive consumers of bad movies, total nymphomaniacs and raging drunks! Even more than we are now!”
Sarria just laughed. “Dave, have you ever considered that maybe the pot is making you a little bit paranoid?”
“We’re headed for dark waters, Sarria, lit by buoys of false hope! Free will fails and chemicals prevail! Self-control is out the window! Brave New World! Brave New World! I might be a little paranoid, but maybe not. Who knows?!”
“Pot also makes people ambivalent, you know.”
“You’re missing the point, Sarria!”
Daily Friday Editor David Downs has eight columns left in his college career, thank God. See him rant again next Wednesday.