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ROC Weekly News Bites
Brain Surgery to Overcome Addiction, Many Americans Unaware Alcohol Linked to Cancer, and Synthetic Drug Trafficking a ‘National Security’ Emergency
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
Experimental brain surgery may help some people overcome drug addiction
A man suffering from SUD from West Virginia became the first patient in a four-person research study testing the safety and feasibility of deep brain stimulation (DBS) as an addiction treatment.
In 2019, Dr. Ali Rezai, a neurosurgeon, drilled a hole into a man’s skull. He inserted an electrical probe, a fine piece of wire barely a millimeter wide.
As the man lay sedated but awake, Rezai showed him a series of images on a monitor: piles of drugs and other pictures meant to induce the cravings and anxiety. Based on the patient's responses, Rezai adjusted the probe to make sure it sat in the correct position. The team hoped the electrical signal would restore healthy function to damaged brain areas and free the man from the nonstop drug craving that held him prisoner.
Counseling and anti-addiction medications help many people, but Rezai says that some need additional help to break the cycle of drug dependence.
"When you first take drugs, you get the dopamine high," Rezai said. "But the more drug you take, there's less and less." In susceptible individuals, the result is intense craving and obsessive behavior. "The nucleus [accumbens] becomes overactive, to seek the dopamine."
By placing an electrical probe in the nucleus accumbens, Rezai hopes to restore normal function. The wire also stimulates a second region of the brain, the frontal cortex, which is vital to higher thought and decision-making, and which Rezai says is also damaged by heavy drug use.
Most Americans unaware alcohol can cause cancer
The majority of Americans are not aware that alcohol consumption causes a variety of cancers, and especially do not consider wine and beer to have a link with cancer, suggest the results from a national survey.
"Alcohol is a leading modifiable risk factor for cancer yet most Americans are unaware that alcohol increases cancer risk," wrote lead author Andrew Seidenberg, PhD, MPH, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland, and colleagues.
"Increasing awareness of the alcohol–cancer link, such as through multimedia campaigns and patient–provider communication, may be an important new strategy for health advocates working to implement preventive alcohol policies," they add.
The results show that there is some public support for the idea of adding written warnings about the alcohol–cancer risk to alcoholic beverages, which is something that a number of cancer organizations have been petitioning to implement.
Government commission: Synthetic drug trafficking a ‘national security’ emergency
A government commission tasked with developing solutions to the U.S. synthetic opioid crisis called for urgent action after warning that spiraling overdose deaths threaten U.S. “national security and economic well-being.”
The commission’s much-anticipated findings echo President Joe Biden’s Dec. 15 declaration that the trafficking of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the U.S. constituted a national emergency.
“In terms of loss of life and damage to the economy, illicit synthetic opioids have the effect of a slow-motion weapon of mass destruction in pill form,” the report said. “U.S. and Mexican efforts can disrupt the flow of synthetic opioids across U.S. borders, but real progress can come only by pairing illicit synthetic opioid supply disruption with decreasing the domestic U.S. demand for these drugs.”
Rep. David Trone, the commission’s co-chair, said “China needs to do things differently like enforcing their anti-money laundering laws, preventing Chinese chemical manufacturers from exporting these legal precursors to known trafficking operations in Mexico, regulating the industry itself and [regulating] appropriately the other synthetic opioids that are out there.”
The commission recommends the U.S. government leverage its diplomatic influence on countries that share synthetic opioid overdose problems as well as international organizations, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to pressure the Chinese government to take those necessary steps.
The Commission also wants a dramatic expansion of public access to harm-reduction tools, including distribution and availability of the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone and fentanyl test strips that reveal the presence of the chemical in illicit street drugs.
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