A brain implant will fight drug addiction

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A brain implant was implanted in 33-year-old Gerod Buckhalter, who had been struggling with opioid addiction for many years. The treatment consisted of implanting electrodes into the so-called award center. This is the first case in this country of using deep brain stimulation in a patient suffering from treatment resistant opioid addiction.

For Buckhalter, it was a last-resort procedure, as Dr. Ali Rezai said, who performed the operation. Gerod Buckhalter was addicted at the age of 15. When he got injured during a football match, he was injected with a pain-relieving drug called percocet, containing oxycodone and acetaminophen. Oxycodone is highly addictive. An oxycodone producer, Purdue Pharma, downplayed the threat by running an aggressive marketing campaign in which physicians were used to popularize the drug.

After the accident, Buckhalter quickly became addicted to drugs. He struggled with addiction for many years and, as he told The Washington Post, the longest drug-free break lasted less than four months. – I went through every type of treatment possible. Without success – he told reporters.

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The operation was carried out on November 1 and lasted almost seven hours. At that time, the patient remained conscious so that he could answer the questions of the operating doctors. Three more people are waiting for a similar implant. During surgery, electrodes were introduced into the nucleus accumbens, exactly where the reward system is located. The stimulator consists of a battery connected by a wire to electrodes located in the brain. The connecting cable is located under the skin around the neck, and the pulse generator, or battery, is attached to the collarbone or chest. The stimulator is first set by a doctor who can change his parameters to suit his brain activity. Later, brain activity will be monitored remotely.

implant
The first on the left dr. Ali Rezai (photo: WVU Photo / Greg Ellis)

According to Dr. Rezai, brain stimulation is the ultimate solution if other treatment attempts fail. These types of implants are used to treat Parkinson's disease, with drug-resistant epilepsy, in people with obsessive compulsive disorder, and sometimes also depression.

Addiction to opioids, which began in the US in the 90s caused in this country the so-called a real opioid crisis. According to the US National Institute of Health, in 2017, 100 people per day died of opioid overdose. Almost 80 percent of heroin users are people who have previously received it prescription opioids.

We recommend a great text by prof. Jerzy Vetulani "Why is the brain addicted? Can he get addicted to everything? "which appeared in the supplement to Polityka weekly – "An indispensable intellectual. Understanding the brain ".

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