Brain surgeons have surgically implanted electrodes into the brain of an opioid addiction patient's for the first time in the US.
West Virginia University (WVU) scientists believe that so-called deep brain stimulation can help ease cravings for the addictive and dangerous drugs.
Admittedly, they aren't sure exactly how deep brain stimulation works to treat addiction.
But based on promising research using it to treat symptoms of Parkinson's epilepsy and depression, the WVU team think that it may have to do with the neurotransmitter, dopamine, and interfere with the brain's reward circuit.
The method has been attempted in Holland and China, but the researchers believe this is its first trial in the US - and so far, Gerod Buckhalter, 33, is feeling more able to 'engage' and be interested in things other than drugs, the study authors told the Washington Post.
Led by Dr Ali Rezai (center), brain surgeons implanted electrode wire's into the brain of 33-year-old Gerod Buckhalter (pictured right, on screen and awake for surgery) in a first-of-its-kind treatment for opioid addiction in the US
Over the course of the last decade, the patient, Gerod Buckhalter, has suffered multiple overdoses from his addiction to opioids and benzodiazepines.
The hotel employee told the Washington Post that he hasn't spent more than four months sober since the age of 15.
He has tried inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment, with and without medication.
Nothing has worked. Buckhalter's addiction is 'treatment-resistant,' in medical parlance.
About 2.1 million Americans were addicted to opioids by 2016, according to the latest data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. That number has undoubtedly swollen as the epidemic has persisted.
For most of those people, attempts to break the addiction will fail at least once, but ultimately once.
A small subset exhaust all options.
'Despite our best efforts using current, evidence-based treatment modalities, there exist a number of patients who simply don’t respond,' said Dr James Berry, director of the school's addiction services.
And there are many addiction patients to see in West Virginia, which has the highest rate of opioid addictions and overdoses of any state in