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Scientists transplant electrodes into the brain of an addict

What if the future of detox was electrodes placed in the brain? This controversial method is part of a clinical trial in China, with the aim of helping drug users to get out of their addiction.

A man addicted to methamphetamine says he is cured after having electrodes inserted into the brain in the first-ever clinical trial to treat addicts with deep brain stimulation.

What is deep brain stimulation?

It is an invasive method that is far from unanimous among doctors and whose effects are still poorly understood. It involves implanting electrodes in the brain by piercing the skull . The electrodes are connected to an electrical box placed under the skin that delivers a very weak current in the brain. This treatment is known to help people with Parkinson’s disease. But this time, it is an addict who has been treated through deep brain stimulation .

A study of a new kind

The study was conducted at Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, China, where a pacemaker-like instrument was placed in the brain of a methamphetamine addict to try to combat his addiction. The idea is to stimulate certain areas of the brain using electrodes. “The drill made a noise a bit like ‘bzzzzzzz'” explains the patient, called Yan, before adding “the piercing of the cranial box is the most horrible moment.” More than 6 months after the operation, the man claims to no longer use drugs.

A method that is not unanimous

In the West, scientists’ attempts to launch studies on deep brain stimulation of drug addicts have not been well received, for ethical and scientific reasons. China is one of the pioneering countries in this field. Indeed, eight studies using deep brain stimulation to combat drug addiction have been reported, and six are conducted in China according to the National Institute of Health in the United States.

” For many psychiatric diseases such as anorexia or schizophrenia or OCD, there is no possibility to test animals,” says Dr. Sun Bomin, director of neurosurgery center at Ruijin Hospital. “For these diseases, we must use human patients.”

This surprising method raises many questions about the effectiveness of the device in the face of a growing need, particularly in the United States, where the opioid crisis has killed 300,000 Americans since 2000.

Brady Roberts
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