Physicians in China treat addictions by destroying the brain’s pleasure center
Drug addiction in China is highly stigmatized. And now, some doctors are trying to cure it with a radical procedure known as as a “stereotactic ablation.” More simply, it’s the practice of destroying parts of the brain’s “pleasure centers” (the nucleus accumbens) in heroin addicts and alcoholics as a way to stop drug cravings. At the same time, however, damage to this region could also impair a person’s ability to experience natural longings and other emotions, including joy. [& img via]
So the idea is using heat to kill cells in a targeted area of the brain, which is also used in severe cases of depression and OCD. But in the accumbens, it’s a risky surgery to consider because, “That region is saturated with neurons containing dopamine and endogenous opioids, which are involved in pleasure and desire related both to drugs and to ordinary experiences like eating, love and sex.” @maiasz over at Time Healthland details this trade off:
…21% of the patients they studied experienced memory deficits after the surgery and 18% had “weakened motivation,” including at least one report of lack of sexual desire. The authors claim, however, that “all of these patients reported that their [adverse results] were tolerable.” [via]
…because there is probably a pill for the other stuff.