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Latest controversial addiction treatment? Destroying the brain's pleasure centers

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If heroin or alcohol gives you that feel-good buzz, doesn't it make sense that an addict need only shut off the part of his brain responsible for that pleasure?

That would be true, except that the part of the brain responsible for pleasurable sensations from substances is also the part of the brain that makes you feel natural joy.

Shutting down the pleasure centers

The latest addiction treatment that's quickly becoming a controversial topic is one that involves destroying the brain's pleasure centers--a tactic that is currently being used in China despite bans put forth by the country's Ministry of Health.

This past October, World Neurosurgery published results from the most recent study on the topic, stating that the procedure is “a feasible method for alleviating psychological dependence on opiate drugs."

The study found that about half the participants who had the procedure ended up relapsing, and about 60 percent had lasting side effects, like memory loss, lack of motivation, and problems feeling desire and pleasure related to things like sex, love or eating.

Inherent dangers

Despite the fact that the procedure, called stereotactic ablation, is performed in the US, many medical professionals argue that publishing studies on the subject in reputable journals might give the procedure more recognition and respect than it deserves.

David Linden, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins says the procedure is “horribly misguided, and notes that, "This treatment will almost certainly render the subjects unable to feel pleasure from a wide range of experiences, not just drugs of abuse.”

Many medical professionals note that since addiction research suggests patients can recover in time--even with the absence of treatment--the risk factors for this type of surgery far outweigh any potential benefits.

Dr. John Adler, professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Stanford University concurs:

"As far as I’m concerned, ablation of the nucleus accumbens makes no sense for anyone. There’s a very high complication rate."

Source: TIME