DBS, or Deep Brain Stimulation: we’ve heard of it, but what the hell is it? Can placing electrodes in your brain really fight the forces driving addiction? DBS is a surgical procedure performed under general anesthesia, after MRI scans have identified a target in the brain. A small area of the scalp is removed, and a probe places an electrode at the desired location. Mild electrical impulses then stimulate the area in question. A recent article in the journal Addiction calls for well-controlled clinical trials of DBS for addiction, despite the substantial risks involved.
To date, DBS has been employed mainly as a controversial treatment for Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. It was first used in the US in 1997 by neurosurgeons at the Mayo Clinic, and is now being considered for depression and OCD, as well as addiction. Studies on rats have shown that using DBS on a brain region called the subthalamus nucleus can influence cocaine dependence; but an earlier Addiction contributor argued that the scientific rationale for this was poor, and the clinical evidence unconvincing. The ultimate target is a tiny region known as the nucleus accumbens, where addictive drugs do much of their work.
Last year, some Chinese neurosurgeons horrified the world by actually destroying the nucleus accumbens in an attempt to “cure” addiction. DBS wouldn't be as drastic, but the possible complications—like intracerebral hemorrhage, infection and emotional disturbances—are daunting. Still, a recent article in the journal Nature presents evidence that direct brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens could lead to “reversal of cocaine-evoked synaptic plasticity,” which might lead to loss of interest in addictive drugs. The jury's out.
Candice Smith, 32, a three-year veteran of the New York Police Department, spent Saturday night boozing before getting busted driving for eight miles down the wrong side of Sagtikos Parkway in Long Island. A witness of the event, Eric Minkoff, watched Smith barreling east on the west-bound lane at high speed when he decided to intervene. “There was a handful of cars driving by her, avoiding her, flashing their lights,” said Minkoff. He drove alongside Smith from the other side of the partitioned highway, and signaled desperately. She ignored him until Minkoff maneuvered his car in front of her. This is the second case of a public officer wrong-side drunk-driving this week: Former FAA Chief J. Randolf Babbitt was busted in Virginia for the same thing, and resigned from his office the following morning. Officer Smith blew a point 0.17 on a Breathalyzer and was charged with drunken driving and suspended from duty for 30 days without pay.
Yesterday, police in Suffolk County, New York, discovered clothes, a cell phone and ID of a missing 24-year-old prostitute along a lonely stretch of Long Island that has become a macabre burial ground over the past year. According to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert was not a victim of the Seashore Serial Killer, who investigators believe has killed and buried 10 other victims on this narrow barrier island on the outskirts of New York City. Instead, on May 1, 2010, Gilbert became disoriented while fleeing a local john. According to her driver, Mike Pak of Jersey City, she drowned in swampy lowlands, the victim of her a drug-induced panic.
It all began just after midnight, when Pak dropped her off at the home of a client in Oak Beach. Two hours later, she became upset and called Pak, but fled the house before the he arrived. Minutes later, at 4:45 am, she banged on a neighbor’s door. “She was saying, ‘I need help, I need help, they’re after me,’” the neighbor told reporters. He called police, but by then Gilbert had turned and disappeared in the swamp. “It’s very easy to get engulfed in water, muck and fall down," says Dormer. "We surmise that’s what happened."
The Mexican navy has seized 226 tons of methylamine, a banned chemical used to manufacture synthetic drugs including methamphetamine, it announced today. The haul was found spread among 11 shipping containers in the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas. The containers had been shipped from China; East Asia is a leading consumer and manufacturer of many chemicals and drugs in the amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) category, which includes meth and ecstasy. And Mexico's many traffickers are only too happy to profit—they're blamed for the bulk of synthetic drug imports to the US market.
- Brazil to Invest $2 Billion to Combat Crack Cocaine Epidemic [Huffington Post]
- NY Taxi Driver Accused of Raping Drunk Woman [Gothamist]
- British TV Personality Michael Barrymore Busted With Cocaine [BBC]
- NHL Star Matthew Barnaby Faces Deportation For Drunk Driving [Daily News]
- University Study Cites Ecstasy Use in Chronic Serotonin Loss [Physchcentral]
- Alaskan Survives on Frozen Beer for Three Days While Stuck in Snowdrift [Time]
- Convict Faces Additional Time For Brewing Booze in Cell [Huffington Post]
An 18-year-old boy was devoured by ravenous fish in Bolivia last week, after jumping from his canoe into the notoriously piranha-infested Yata river while drunk. The victim, said by police to be a local fisherman, had been drinking before the incident and bled to death at the scene. Because he knew the river so well, police suspect his action was suicide. Despite a fearsome, flesh-stripping reputation, piranha attacks on humans are relatively rare. But a recent series of attacks—such as one in Brazil this September, in which 15 swimmers were set upon by a large school of the fish at a popular river beach—may heighten awareness of the dangers.