An Italian psychiatrist continues to garner success after making breakthroughs with experimental applications of electromagnetic pulses to treat cocaine addiction.
Luigi Gallimberti, who is also a toxicologist that has treated addiction for 30 years, scouted Patrick Perotti as his subject. The 38-year-old man who lives in Genoa, Italy, started snorting the drug when he was 17 years old and eventually developed a severe cocaine addiction.
Gallimberti’s experimental treatment consists of a transcranial magnetic stimulation. This occurs when a device with a coiled wire inside a wand runs electric currents through a patient’s temples creating a magnetic pulse that alters electrical activity in the brain to eliminate compulsion.
It’s been used on other patients with similar success.
Gallimberti’s decision to try out this technique came from dramatic advances in the science of addiction as well as his frustration with traditional treatment methods. While new medications and treatments have been developed for heroin, cigarette smoking, and alcohol, it has been more difficult to treat stimulants like cocaine.
But the experimental treatment worked very well for Perotti’s cocaine addiction.
Since the piece chronicling the treatment was published in National Geographic, he has not felt the urge to use, has refrained from taking cocaine and hasn’t relapsed on any drug.
Gallimberti’s inspiration for the project came from observing the work and experiments by Antonello Bonci, a neurologist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Bonci measured activity in the neurons of cocaine-addicted rats and found an area of the brain associated with
inhibiting behavior that was abnormally inactive.
Through the use of optogenetics, which combines genetic engineering and fiber optics to influence animal brains with unprecedented precision and speed, the researchers have activated the cells in the animal models.
Bonci’s work has been used in the experimental treatment by Gallimberti.
Gallimberti and his colleagues are still planning a large-scale trial and the technique is now being tested for other types of addiction by researchers across the world.