Patients with severe opioid addiction are undergoing surgery that involves implanting brain implants to help them reduce cravings for narcotic drugs, the first of its kind in the United States.

Gerod Backholter, 33, who has suffered for years with addiction, underwent the surgery 10 years later, during which he suffered several setbacks and overdoses.

Ali Rezai, head of the surgical team who performed the operation, described the device as a “brain regulator”, similar to a pacemaker.

But he stressed that it is not consumer technology and should not be used to “improve the functioning of the human brain.”

Buckhalter underwent the surgery on November 1 at the University of West Virginia Medical School Hospital. The same surgery is planned for three other volunteers.
Preparations for this surgery begin with a series of brain scans, and then surgeons begin to puncture the skull to insert a tiny electrode tube of no more than a millimeter in a specific area of ​​the brain and help the patient to control motives such as addiction and self-control.
A battery is implanted under the bones of the collarbone, and brain activity is then remotely monitored by a team of human physicians, psychologists, and addiction experts to determine whether the desire to take the drug is declining.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has adopted “deep brain stimulation” as a way to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Brain transplants of this type were performed for about 180,000 people worldwide.

But this is the first time that this treatment has been used to deal with addictions, and it was a complex experiment involving the participation of a large number of teams including ethicists, psychiatrists and regulatory representatives.

West Virginia has the highest age-specific death rates from overdoses in the United States. In 2017, the state’s mortality rate was 49.6 per 100,000, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Studies of the United States.