China has long been a country with a troubled history in experimental treatments for drug addiction.
They are now attempting to add another option. This treatment involves brain surgery to insert electrodes into the brains of addicts.
There are currently eight studies being conducted on this approach around the world. Six are in China; none are in the U.S. – until now.
China’s dark past…
Before brain implants were attempted in China, a procedure called brain lesioning was common. Families desperate for help would allow physicians to surgically destroy clumps of brain tissue in the belief that doing so would curb addictive behaviors. Though a profitable procedure for physicians, it left the majority of patients brain damaged.
The practice was halted in 2004 – but when it was, physicians reported that approximately half of those who had received the lesioning treatment stayed off drugs for five years.
The idea of implanting electrodes into the brains of addicts to impact the same regions of the brain targeted by lesioning was born.
Are there risks associated with the trial of this approach?
The very first candidate has received the implant. Doctors acknowledged there was a small chance he could die of a brain hemorrhage or emerge with changes to his personality, seizures, or an infection. Not to mention the fact that the treatment might have no positive treatment effect.
How is he doing now – 6 months after the surgery?
He is still drug-free, is feeling well, and he’s put on 20 pounds. He was quite underweight before the trial began.
Does this therapy hold promise for the future? Many treatment specialists and neurologists are not yet ready to embrace the idea, urging extreme caution. A number worry that human trials are simply too dangerous and premature.
We will continue to follow developments.
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