Two electrodes implanted in patient’s brain to control drug addiction
by Wang Zhicheng

The treatment is called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). Electrical stimulation is performed using a tablet to influence a patient’s mood from quiet or agitated to happy. Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital has been performing DBS for a long time to treat Tourette's syndrome (motor and vocal tics), anorexia and depression. The operation in China costs US$ 25,000 but US$ 100,00 in the US. The medical community is divided over the matter for medical and ethical reasons.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Shanghai’s Ruijin Hospital performed the first clinical trial of deep brain stimulation (DBS) by implanting a device into a patient’s brain to eliminate his drug addiction.

Two electrodes were threaded into the patient’s skull and a battery pack was implanted in his chest. A tablet is used to stimulate the brain to control his mood, from quiet or agitated to happy.

According to Yan, the patient in question, the machine “controls your happiness, anger, grief and joy.”

News and pictures of the experiment were reported worldwide by the Associated Press.

DBS has been used so far to treat movement disorders like Parkinson’s. But in Europe and the United States recruiting patients for DBS addiction studies has been tough, and governments have imposed limits because of ethical considerations.

In China, before brain implants, brain lesioning or ablative brain surgery was performed. This practice entails the surgical ablation of brain tissue to treat neurological or psychological disorders, but it has also left a trail of patients with mood disorders, lost memories and altered sex drives.

In 2004, China’s Ministry of Health ordered a halt to brain lesioning for addiction at most hospitals. Nine years later, doctors at a military hospital in Xian reported that roughly half of the 1,167 addicts who had their brains lesioned stayed off drugs for at least five years.

As in many other fields in China, laws are one thing, practice is another. The Ruijin Hospital has long practiced DBS to treat Tourette syndrome (motor and vocal tics), anorexia and depression.

In China, DBS devices can cost less than US,000; in the United States, costs can add up to US$ 100,000.

The medical community is divided over the matter. Some are in favour because DBS allows people to get their life back. Others advise caution and more medical and ethical information. Meanwhile, six months after his operation, Yan still refuses to take drugs.

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