Someone with a drug addiction may spend years of their life trying to get and remain sober. Generally speaking, the road to recovery is long and hard, and relapse is likely. There has always been an interest in finding a quick fix to substance abuse to sort of bypass the struggle, but so far no real options have been found.
History of Brain Surgery for Addiction
Doctors in countries around the world have used brain surgery to try to cure addiction once and for all. Beginning in the late 1970s, surgeons in some European countries performed brain surgery on addicts, usually by removing or destroying a small section of the brain. It became popular in Russia in the 1990s and in China in 2000. However, authorities in some of these countries have banned the procedures after patients complained of headaches or other side effects. The procedures only work in 30-70% of patients, depending on which method is used. Since then, doctors in Russia and China have been working on improving the techniques to be less invasive and to have better results.
Acupuncture of the Brain
Doctors in China came up with a new method in 2005 that does not involve removing part of the brain. During this procedure, two needles are inserted into an area of the brain that houses the impulse to do drugs. Wires are connected to a remote control that stimulates brain tissue in these areas. The result is that the person’s brain is electrically stimulated to “forget” their addiction. The first procedure was performed in China 6 years ago, and the patient has been clean and sober without relapse ever since. The results were highlighted in the journal Biological Psychiatry this month.
The hope with procedures like the brain stimulation surgery is that drug addicts who have tried everything else can be cured using this method. As one doctor said, “Using medicine alone can solve physical addiction, but it is unable to solve the mental addiction. Brain surgery is really the last resort for drug addicts and their families. Many broken and distraught parents have come to me for help for their addicted children.” (1)
No Quick Fix
While doctors are continuing to gain clearance in these countries to perform the surgery now, many people have mixed emotions on the subject. We know that there is no quick fix for addiction, and to give people the hope that there is can be very dangerous. Even if a procedure like surgery would cure someone’s impulsive desire to do drugs, there are so many other components to drug addiction that need to be addressed. Any kind of brain modification would also need to come with therapy, family counseling, possibly job training, life skills education, and the ability to get the person’s life back on track.
Recovery is a slow process, but people who have made it through realize that the process has made them who they are today. Many are thankful for the hard journey they’ve been through, now that they’ve made it.