Dr. James Berry, the Director of Addiction Services from The West Virginia University, explains that the areas of the brain responsible for cravings and impulses are targeted with deep brain stimulation. He says there is a common pathway, a reward pathway where dopamine is being released, in the brain responsible for all addiction that may benefit from this this new approach to dealing with addiction.
He says the patient is awake during the surgery as electrodes are placed in their brain. The patient views photos and describes their level of craving while looking at the images. The pulses from the electrodes are then adjusted to deal with the patient's level of craving.
But if how someone's brain reward system is altered when it comes to drugs, does it change how they might feel about other things, for sinatnce essentials like food and water? Dr. Berry says the appropriate electrode pusle level for each patient is monitored to ensure they are not altered too much in either direction.
He also notes the electrodes are left in the brain in case further teratment is needed and when a pulse is sent, the patient does not typically feel it happening. The clinical trial currently has 1 participant and is seeking 3 more patients for the study.
*If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction please call the confidential and free National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or visit their website.