We’ve written about telehealth programs and technology including pharmaceutical implants, overdose-detecting wristbands, and more, all developed to combat the opioid addiction epidemic. We’ve also noted work with deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and mental health issues including depression.

Earlier this month, West Virginia University (WVU)’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (RNI) announced the beginning of a clinical trial using DBS to treat patients who have treatment-resistant opioid use disorder (OUD). The trial in West Virginia has added significance because that state has the highest age-adjusted rate of opioid-related drug overdose deaths in the United States.

The four participants in the first phase of the trial each qualified by failing multiple forms of opioid addiction treatment programs. According to Dr. Ali Rezai, RNI executive chair, “addiction is a brain disease involving the reward centers in the brain, and we need to explore new technologies, such as the use of DBS, to help those severely impacted by opioid use disorder.”

DBS implants, also referred to as brain pacemakers, are electrodes placed in areas of the brain associated with addiction and self-control. The WVU trials may offer hope for our country and for individuals who seek but fail to benefit from multiple types and levels of treatment for opioid addiction.