WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Following a surgical procedure that involved a device installed in the brain, a Chinese man who had been a drug addict for several years had been rendered drug-free.
- According to Dr. Ashesh Mehta of New York, the procedure called deep brain stimulation or DBS makes use of a gadget implanted in the brain that sends electric shocks to the zone that curbs cravings.
- However, critics argue that it is not yet advisable to treat human drug addictions because it does not deal with the biological and other factors that make up an addictive behavior.
Several years battling a methamphetamine addiction, a man in China became drug-free after a device was surgically embedded in his brain to treat his addiction.
The Independent reported that the man participated in the world’s first clinical trials that use deep brain stimulation (DBS) to cure drug addiction at Rujin Hospital in Shanghai.
Dr. Ashesh Mehta, epilepsy surgery director at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center in Great Neck, New York says that DBS involves the surgical implantation of a pacemaker-looking device into a specific region of the brain through which an electric current passes that will bring mild electrical shocks to the targeted area.
Theoretically speaking, the electrical current targets a brain area of patients with drug addiction called nucleus accumbens, that controls cravings. In effect, it decreases the yearning for drugs, according to Mehta who not involved with the Chinese man’s case.
While DBS has been approved in the U.S. to treat neurological disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, it has become quite controversial when used for drug addiction, reported The Independent. Skeptic critics contend that the procedure does not tackle the networking of biological, social and psychological factors that constitute an addictive behavior despite promising results from animal studies.
Regardless, the treatment has caught the attention of U.S. experts who are pursuing new and effective treatments for addiction.
In 2017, the National Institute on Drug Abuse revealed that over 70,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses including those from illegal drugs and prescription opioids, reportedly a twofold increase since 2007.
To reduce deaths from drug addiction, a recently U.S. FDA-approved DBS trial for opioid addiction slated as early as June will be conducted at the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute led by its director, Dr.Ali Rezai.
However, Mehta told Live Science DBS should only form one part of a comprehensive treatment plan in treating drug addiction. He also added that when it comes to risks, DBS is no exception. While the major risks are bleeding, infection and stroke, Mehta states that overall, the risk is lower among young people in otherwise good health.
So far, there are eight registered DBS clinical trials all over the world including six in China, one in France and another one in Germany, according to a database from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Source: Live Science