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May 20, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

New 'brain' surgery to cure drug addicts

A NEW surgical procedure in the brain could be a cure for drug addicts without injuring the vital organ, local medical authorities said yesterday.

With the new method, doctors from Renji Hospital managed to help a 24-year-old patient with a five-year history of drug abuse to remain clean for more than six years without a relapse. Usually, over 95 percent of addicts relapse within six months after quitting, due to the strong psychological dependency.

It is said to be the world's first reported successful case of treating drug addiction with a form of acupuncture through electrical stimulation in the brain, according to the latest edition of Biological Psychiatry, an international academic journal.

Doctors said the article is a good reference for health authorities to regulate and restart surgical treatment for drug addiction in China after the Ministry of Health banned a controversial surgical procedure that involved removing a small portion of the patient's brain, in November 2004.

"Unlike the surgery where a part of the brain is removed, our treatment is minimally invasive and just stimulates a part of the brain to block the addict's drug-induced psychological dependency," said Dr Zhou Hongyu of Renji Hospital's neurosurgery department. "Similar therapy has been used for many diseases, like Parkinson's, around the world and in China."

During the surgery, doctors input two needles as electrodes into the brain, at a certain position, to stimulate relative tissues to stop people's desire to use drugs.

The two needles are connected by wires to a remote control placed in the patient's chest and takes effect after the strength and frequency of the stimulation are set.

"Compared with the previous banned surgery, this treatment doesn't remove any brain tissues," Zhou said. "The process is even safer than the one used to treat Parkinson's disease, as the position where we place the needles is not close to any major functional tissues in the brain while the position of the needles for treating Parkinson's is close to the part which controls mobility."

But the new therapy is still in an experimental stage; wide adoption will need the health ministry's approval.


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