Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is a rapidly evolving, 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 be involved in manifestation of addiction, without damaging surrounding normal tissue.
How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound can produce biological effects that can potentially help with addiction. One mechanism is thermal ablation of the target tissue and the second is neuromodulation (altering the effects of neural impulses). Though still in the very early stages of development, for certain patients, these techniques have potential to provide a noninvasive, and more effective treatment for addiction.
Specifically, opioid addiction is currently a major problem. There is an ongoing clinical trial investigating focused ultrasound’s role in addressing this specific type of addiction. Please see the “Addiction, Opioid” heading for more information about this topic.
Focused ultrasound can reach the desired target(s) without damaging surrounding tissue, and it can be repeated, if necessary.
A clinical trial using focused ultrasound to treat patients for cocaine abuse has begun at the University of Virginia.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
Focused ultrasound treatment for addiction is not yet approved by regulatory bodies or covered by medical insurance companies.
Deveci E, Akbaş F, Ergun AŞ, Kurtulmuş A, Koçak AB, Boyraz RK, Tok OE, Aydın MŞ, Kılıç Ö, Bozkurt A, Uysal Ö, Eşrefoğlu M, Koçyiğit A, Öztürk A, Lawrence AJ, Kırpınar I. The Effects of Transcranial Focused Ultrasound Stimulation of Nucleus Accumbens on Neuronal Gene Expression and Brain Tissue in High Alcohol-Preferring Rats. Mol Neurobiol. 2022 Nov 22. doi: 10.1007/s12035-022-03130-9.
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.