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Brain implants to combat drug dependence in the US



  Dr. Rezai and his team

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WVU Medical Hospital

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Dr. Ali Rezai and his team did the surgery earlier this month

Patients with severe opioid dependence are given brain implants in the first study of this type in the United States to reduce their cravings.

Gerod Buckhalter, 33, has been struggling with drug abuse for more than a decade. Many relapses and overdoses have already been operated on.

Chief physician Ali Rezai described the device as a "pacemaker for the brain."

But he added that it was not consumer technology and should not be used to "magnify" humans. "

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WVU Medical Hospital

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Gerod Buckhalter had been struggling with addiction for years, after being given prescription for opioids at age 1
8 for a football injury

Mr. Buckhalter was operated on November 1 at West Virginia University Medicine Hospital. Three more volunteers will also have the procedure.

It starts with a series of brain scans. This is followed by surgery with doctors who drill a small hole in the skull to insert a tiny 1 mm electrode into the specific area of ​​the brain that regulates impulses such as addiction and self-control.

A battery is inserted under the collarbone and brain The activity is then remotely monitored by a team of physicians, psychologists, and search experts to determine if the craving subsides to diseases such as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Around 180,000 people around the world have brain implants.

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WVU Mecidine Hospital

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This radiograph shows the insertion of the brain implant

This is the first time that DBS has been approved for drug addiction, and it was a complex study involving many teams, including ethicists, psychologists and many regulators.

Patients will be closely monitored over the next two years.

Dr. Rezai told the BBC: "Addiction is complex, there are a number of social dynamics and genetic elements, and some people have no access to treatments, so their brains are slowly changing and they have more desire."

"This treatment is intended for those who have failed any other treatment, be it medicine, behavioral therapy, social interventions, it is a very rigorous examination under the supervision of ethicists and regulators, and many other government agencies. "

He points to numbers that suggest that overdoses are the leading cause of death for under-50s in the US affects family and relatives.

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Hospital of WVU Medicine

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Mr. Buckhalter with his family before his operation

West Virginia has the highest age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths with opioids in the US. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were 49.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017.

Earlier this year, the British Royal Society warned of the ethical dangers of merging machinery and people and was particularly concerned about the plans of technology companies like Facebook and Elon Musks Neuralink have announced research into the development of commercial products.

Neuralink has now applied for trials in the United States involving people who have introduced electrodes into the brain of patients with paralysis.

And Facebook supports research that aims to develop a headset that can transcribe words at a rate of 100 per minute, if you just think about it.

Dr. Rezai is skeptical when technology companies get involved in the field.

"I think it's very good for science, and we need more science to push the field and learn more about the brain, not to strengthen humans, and that's very important is not a consumer technology. "[19] 659007]" When it comes to applications, it needs to be heavily regulated. "It's not like a flu shot or a tattoo." Surgery poses risks and is not trivial. "It's only suitable for the chronically ill all other treatments have failed and have no hope. "


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