Addiction, Opioid

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Focused Ultrasound Therapy

Focused ultrasound is a noninvasive, therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with addiction. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets deep in the brain, known to be involved in the craving or other manifestations of addiction. 

How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound can produce neuromodulation, which alters the nervous activity of the target cells which may decrease the craving for narcotics.

In the case of opioid abuse, the goal is to decrease the patients’ cravings for the drug. Though still in the early stages of development, for certain patients, these techniques have potential to provide a noninvasive, and more effective, treatment for addiction. Please see “Addiction, Other” for additional work using focused ultrasound on other addictions.

Focused ultrasound is a noninvasive and non-pharmacologic technique that can reach the desired target(s) without damaging surrounding tissue. It can also be repeated, if necessary.

Clinical Trials

clinical trial at West Virginia University using focused ultrasound to modulate the impulses that stimulate desire has completed patient enrollment.

A second clinical trial being formulated at West Virginia University is a randomized, blinded, partial crossover treatment of the nucleus accumbens and the ventral cortex for patients with severe refractory OUD.   

A clinical trial is being formulated at Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University that is looking to use neuromodulation in patients with craving, measure of pain, and anxiety. 

Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement 

Focused ultrasound treatment for addiction is not yet approved by regulatory bodies or covered by medical insurance companies.

Notable Papers

Peng X, Connolly DJ, Sutton F, Robinson J, Baker-Vogel B, Short EB, Badran BW. Non-invasive suppression of the human nucleus accumbens (NAc) with transcranial focused ultrasound (tFUS) modulates the reward network: a pilot study. Front Hum Neurosci. 2024 Apr 2;18:1359396. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2024.1359396. eCollection 2024. PMID: 38628972 

Mahoney JJ 3rd, Thompson-Lake DGY, Ranjan M, Marton JL, Carpenter JS, Zheng W, Berry JH, Farmer DL, D’Haese P, Finomore VS, Tirumalai P, Mears AS, Suffridge J, Ames A, Hodder SL, Rezai AR. Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Targeting the Bilateral Nucleus Accumbens as a Potential Treatment for Substance Use Disorder: A First-in-Human Report. Biol Psychiatry. 2023 Dec 1;94(11):e41-e43. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2023.06.031. Epub 2023 Aug 22. PMID: 37610405 

Mahoney JJ, Haut MW, Carpenter J, Ranjan M, Thompson-Lake DGY, Marton JL, Zheng W, Berry JH, Tirumalai P, Mears A, D’Haese P, Finomore VS, Hodder SL, Rezai AR. Low-intensity focused ultrasound targeting the nucleus accumbens as a potential treatment for substance use disorder: safety and feasibility clinical trial. Front Psychiatry. 2023 Sep 15;14:1211566. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2023.1211566. eCollection 2023.

Mahoney JJ 3rd, Hanlon CA, Marshalek PJ, Rezai AR, Krinke L. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, deep brain stimulation, and other forms of neuromodulation for substance use disorders: Review of modalities and implications for treatment. J Neurol Sci. 2020 Sep 20;418:117149. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2020.117149.

Mooney SJ, Nobrega JN, Levitt AJ, Hynynen K. Antidepressant effects of focused ultrasound induced blood-brain-barrier opening. Behav Brain Res. 2018 Apr 16;342:57-61. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Jan 8.

Deveci E, Kilic A, Yilmaz O, Nabi A, Ergun AS, Bozkurt A, Kurtulmuş A, Öztürk A, Eşrefoğlu M, Aydın MS, Şahan E Kırpınar İ. The effects of focused ultrasound pulsation of nucleus accumbens in opioid-dependent rats. Psychiatry and Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2019 Jul. 

The Focused Ultrasound Foundation Psychiatric Workshop Summary, October, 2017

Click here for additional references from PubMed. 

Clinical Trials