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Controversy continues: Procedure burns away brain's pleasure center to rid patient of addiction

December 13, 2012
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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A recent story I read on TIME highlights a new procedure that some physicians in China are performing to attempt to 'cure addiction.'  This procedure destroys certain parts of a person's brain known as the 'pleasure centers.'  These neurosurgeons believe that this will stop the addictions because the removal takes away the person's longing, desire and motivation for certain things. 

Yes, these things can include drugs and alcohol, but they can also include sex, love, and food.  Taking away certain parts of the brain like this will most likely leave the person without the ability to feel joy.  To me, this does not sound like a good idea.  I understand their basic logic with taking away the patient's ability to long for their substance of choice, but it almost turns the patient into a robot.  And from what I've read about this procedure, it seems that it is not proving to be too effective. 

Many patients end up with lasting side effects that range from memory loss to lack of motivation, and a majority of them end up relapsing and using their drug again.

There's much research and commentary on this topic, so I'll leave the rest to you.  I'd love to hear what those of you working in the addiction field think.  You all work day and in day out with people addicted to drugs, alcohol or with other process addictions, and prescribe medication, work through therapy sessions, and strive to help people reintegrate into normal, everyday life.  Do you think this procedure sounds like a positive update in the field?  Or do you agree with me?

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I suffer from the condition of alcoholism and cannot drink safely. So that I will not hurt myself or others (emotionally or physically) I practice a life in recovery. It is not always easy, but it is also, not always hard. By incorporating certain principles and activities into each day, I am able to live experiencing happiness and sadness, pleasure and pain, love and rejection. If this procedure removes the drug “pleasure center”, will one be able to enjoy the taste of ice cream, the smell of a fresh mowed lawn, the feeling that arouses from one’s skin being stroked or hand being held??? I wonder. Without the ability to experience the good “stuff” and only that of the bad, I think life would be insufferable. Can you imagine???

Shannon Brys