The British newspaper the Independent on Sunday reported this week that "a radical scheme to vaccinate children against future drug addiction is being considered by ministers." Actually, the proposal is being considered by a committee of scientists empaneled by the government earlier this year, the Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs project.
Under the scheme, physicians would immunize children against drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine. The plan would target children "at risk" of becoming smokers or drug users, but at this stage there is no clue as to how it will be decided who is "at risk."
Such an immunization would "provide adults with protection from the euphoria that is experienced by drug users," the Independent reported. According to the newspaper, such concoctions are being developed by pharmaceutical companies and could be on the market within two years.
"People could be vaccinated against drugs at birth as you are against measles," said David Nutt, a committee member as well as a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. "You could say cocaine is more dangerous than measles, for example. It is important that there is a debate on this issue. This is a huge topic -- addiction and smoking are major causes of premature death."
The proposal is raising caution flags in Britain and beyond. Members of Parliament warned that while such a program could be beneficial, it must be done with public consultation and with a close look at ethical questions.
The Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, a California-based organization, is warning that anti-drug immunizations are a prime example of what it refers to as "coercive pharmacotherapy" and is sounding the alarm against the proposal. Earlier this month, the Center published a 50-page report on the topic. The report, "Pharmacotherapy and the Future of the Drug War," is available at http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/issues/pharmacotherapy.html online.