Deep brain stimulation is tested against drug dependence
Severe opioid-dependent patients are treated with brain implants in the first study of their kind in the United States. Can a small electrode inside the brain help opioid-dependent patients get a reduced drug intake and avoid relapse?
Researchers at West Virginia University Hospital in the United States hope to start the first US clinical study on deep brain stimulation as a drug addiction treatment.
Four voluntary subjects will, according to the British BBC, in an initial pilot study, get millimeter-sized electrodes implanted in the brain. The electrodes are located in a region of the brain that plays a vital role for, among other things, addiction and self-control.
Using a small battery under the clavicle of the patient, the electrode will emit electrical impulses deep within the brain.
The treatment method is called deep brain stimulation and is tested, as reported by the World of Medicines, in a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Some examples are Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, and anorexia nervosa.
Studies of deep brain stimulation in drug addiction have previously been conducted in China, and now trials are also starting in the US.
For the next two years, US researchers will follow the four patients to evaluate the safety of the treatment and also any effects on dependence.
– The treatment is aimed at those for whom no other treatments have worked, explains the researcher, and the doctor Ali Rezai who is leading the project for the BBC.
Opioid overdose is one of the most common causes of death among people under the age of 50 in the United States today, and opioid addiction is, according to Ali Rezai, challenging to treat.
– More than half of patients are relapsed. We must find new solutions.