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Strike A Chord: Addiction #5 - The Future and Addiction

Image: Blausen.com staff (2014)

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From the first record of a brewery on Egyptian papyrus in 3500 BC to the earliest historical evidence of opium use in Switzerland in 2500 BC, humans have been getting high. And overdoing it. Sometimes it seems like science and civilization hasn’t found an answer to the problem of addiction. But there are new, promising interventions that might help push back against the waves of addictions and overdoses. Our Strike A Chord series this week is exploring addiction.

Dr Michael Kaplitt is one of those guys that if you start listing his jobs, posts, publications, honors and titles, we would run out of space. Suffice it to say, he’s a brain surgeon. Here's the short version:  Professor of  Neurological Surgery and Vice Chairman for Research in the Department of Neurological Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical College.

Dr. Kaplitt is the first Doctor in New York to use focused ultrasound to treat tremors in Parkinson’s disease. The procedure used to require drilling a hole in the skull...nowadays he injects combination of drug therapy and microscopic gas bubbles into your bloodstream, and then, he says, "When those bubbles come into the field that you're interested in where that ultrasound is they start bouncing around they get very agitated and they start bouncing around, and it literally becomes like that video game breakout where they start punching holes. They start banging up against the wall of the blood vessels and the punch little microscopic holes in these in in in the gaps between cells in the brain."

Once you have access, you can target regions associated with Parkinson's. Or addiction. And there are other therapies coming down the line as well. Vaccines against heroin protect the brain by treating the opioid as a disease and preventing it from passing into the brain. Researchers at the University of California- San Francisco are having success with lasers in addicted rats. A clinic in Padua, Italy is showing promising returns from therapy involving magnets.

But Dr. Joseph Lee of the Hazelden Betty Ford clinic is less enthusiastic about putting so much emphasis on these types of efforts. He says, "There's another a group of kids incubating in our schools and 10 years from now. There will be a different drug in the black marketplace and it will it will ravage society. Just like opioids are now."

Addiction is not a phenomenon that we will ever be able to eradicate as a society, but, Dr. Lee says, investing in people and communities will always bring returns.

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