How Effective Are Brain Implants in Drug Addiction Treatment?
There are numerous factors that contribute to active drug addiction and rewiring of the brain’s reward systems is one of the most powerful mechanisms behind addiction and relapse.
One of the most common misconceptions about addiction is that it’s caused by a lack of self-control, but this difficulty with self-control stems from physical differences in the brain that are caused by prolonged drug or alcohol use. The brain’s reward systems are essentially rewired by addiction and changing things back to normal can be exceptionally difficult for people who are struggling with addiction.
A new study is underway in the US in which a brain implant for addiction treatment is being tested. Scientists are looking into fighting addiction with science by using deep brain stimulation to treat addiction. The belief is that by inserting a brain implant for addiction into the brain of individuals who are struggling with addiction, they will be able to help the patients rewire their brain’s reward systems to get and stay sober.
The First US Studies Using Deep Brain Stimulation to Treat AddictionDeep brain stimulation is gaining traction as an effective treatment for a variety of conditions including obsessive compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, and now, addiction.1 This approach to treatment is fighting addiction with science by addressing the underlying causes of cravings, addiction, and relapse deep within the brain. There are currently four patients in the US who are undergoing trials of brain implants for addiction treatment, including 33-year-old Gerod Buckhalter. Buckhalter has been dealing with addiction since his teenage years after being prescribed opioid painkillers for a sports injury when he was young, and he’s spent the past decade in and out of sobriety. He’s one of the patients undergoing the study that uses deep brain stimulation to treat addiction with an implant inserted into the reward system of his brain. The brain implant will stimulate his brain’s reward pathways to help rewire the rewards systems in hopes of helping the patient stick to sobriety without cravings or other challenges. All trial patients will be closely monitored for the next two years to help determine the efficacy of this treatment.2
Do Brain Implants for Addiction Treatment Work?As with many other addictions, there’s a cyclical effect regarding the symptoms of Ativan abuse that addicts experience. For example, someone who is addicted to Ativan may self-medicate their paranoia or aggression by taking Ativan off-label or taking illegally purchased prescription pills. The drug, in turn, reinforces the very effects it’s treating due to the manipulation of neural networks and systems.
The trials using deep brain stimulation to treat addiction are only beginning, so the results will take years to be determined. But the successful use of brain implants to treat other conditions is promising, as is the FDA’s increased approval of brain implants for treating other challenges. The truth about the effectiveness of brain implants for addiction treatment will be revealed as the study continues. But as with many other challenges, brain implants alone are unlikely to treat the entire challenge of addiction. Therapies and full treatment programs are needed to help patients work towards sobriety.
At Banyan Boca, we are here to help patients through their recovery, from the opiate withdrawal timeline to long-term sobriety. Call 888-280-4763 to learn how we can help you get and stay sober.
- The Washington Post - Deep brain stimulation is being tested to treat opioid addiction
- BBC - Brain implants used to fight drug addiction in US