Targeting the Brain to Overcome Addiction

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Many people struggle for years trying to overcome their addictions. When traditional methods fail, many often give up and give in. However, researchers at West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute are at the forefront of an exciting new treatment that targets certain regions of the brain.

The University announced this month (November) the launch of a first-in-the-U.S. clinical trial using deep brain stimulation (DBS) for patients suffering from treatment-resistant opioid use disorder.

The patient was a 33-year-old man who has struggled for more than a decade with substance use disorder, specifically excessive opioid and benzodiazepine use. The team of doctors implanted a DBS device in the addiction and reward center of his brain. Electrical pulses sent to the brain are supposed to help train it not to crave drugs.

The clinical trial will have four participants who have failed to recover from addiction despite completing several types of treatment programs at West Virginia University Medicine. West Virginia has the highest age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving opioids. In 2017, there were 833 drug overdose deaths involving opioids in West Virginia—a rate of 49.6 deaths per 100,000 persons, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

DBS is nothing new, it’s been used to treat other conditions including Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and Dystonia, a movement disorder in which a person’s muscles contract uncontrollably. It’s also been used for certain psychiatric conditions including obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In May, the first clinical trial of DBS for methamphetamine addiction was conducted at Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital, along with trials for opioid addiction.

There are eight registered DBS clinical trials for drug addiction, according to, a database from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Six are in China, one in France and one in Germany. offers FDA approved and CLIA waived test cups that detect opioids and 11 other drugs with results in five minutes or less. For more information, please contact Nicole at or call 888-655-0508.

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