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Chinese doctors test deep brain stimulation drug addiction treatment

Doctors in China are undertaking the world’s first trials of using deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat drug addicts in an effort that could transform the medical treatment of drug addiction. DBS is a neurosurgical procedure that consists of inserting electrodes into certain parts of the brain. The electrodes stimulate activity in the brain that eases the symptoms of several disorders, including epilepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dystonia, and Parkinson’s Disease. Many researchers think that DBS could be useful in treating intractable drug addiction, but there is limited data on using it for that purpose.

According to the US National Institutes of Health, there are currently six registered clinical trials for using DBS to treat drug addiction in China. Researchers at Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital are conducting the country’s first clinical trial of using the procedure to treat methamphetamine addiction, as well as parallel trials to treat opioid addiction.

Doctors from Ruijin Hospital have published the results of large trails they conducted to evaluate using DBS to treat patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression and anorexia nervosa. Researchers at the hospital have also created a specialised electrode to treat the brain area they believe has a link to drug addiction.

The researchers say that they are very aware of their patients’ wellbeing. Dr Sun Bomin, director of Ruijin Hospital’s functional neurosurgery department, said that his motivation for conducting the research is to offer hope to people who are currently suffering from untreatable drug addiction.

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