Summary and Analysis

This article is a sobering, somewhat horrifying, account of experimentation with brain mutilation as a way to address addiction. Quite in addition to ethical questions it raises, the mindset that results in attempts to cut or shock away behavior can only result in pushing addiction treatment back to an age when punishment was more common.

The article’s author seems to have bought into the controversial brain disease model of addition (BDMA) when he claims that the apparent change in some addictive behaviors for the “only person in the United States to ever have substance use disorder relieved” by the procedure “…helps refute the false belief that substance use disorder is a weakness or a moral failing, rather than a brain disease.” The experience of a single patient clearly is never sufficient to confirm any theory, much less a controversial one such as the BDMA.

Moreover, the “moral weakness versus brain disease” dichotomy has long been recognized as a false choice. Many of the world’s experts in drug addiction do not subscribe to the brain disease model of addiction, neither do they condemn those with drug addiction problems because of an assumed moral failing.


Excerpted from The Washington Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After nearly two decades of hardcore drug addiction — after overdoses and rehabs and relapses, homelessness and dead friends and ruined lives — Gerod Buckhalter had one choice left, and he knew it.

He could go on the same way and die young in someone’s home or a parking lot, another casualty in a drug epidemic that has claimed nearly 850,000 people like him.

Or he could let a surgeon cut two nickel-size holes in his skull and plunge metal-tipped electrodes into his brain.