Scientist Gets Brain Implant To Cure His Alcoholism

Any friend of Bill W. can tell you that recovery isn't easy, but "it works if you work it." Step one: admit that you are powerless over your addiction. Step two: drill two holes through your skull and have electrodes inserted into your brain to continuously deliver electric shocks to taze your gray matter into submission. Step three through twelve: cross your fingers.

At least that's what the researchers at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital were hoping when they treated acclaimed virologist Frank Plummer for severe alcoholism in December of 2018. Plummer, who described his addiction as putting him "on the path to death," underwent an experimental procedure called deep brain stimulation in which a pair of holes "about the size of a nickel" were bored into the top of his skull and two electrodes were implanted in his brain, according to OneZero.

If you like piña coladas and getting lightly electrocuted in the rain

Extreme? Certainly. Experimental? Highly. Worth it? Plummer certainly seemed to think so, after finding himself still unable to give up the hooch after a liver transplant in 2014.  The brain surgery is somewhat damned with faint praise. Doctor Plummer stated that the implants didn't fully remove his compulsion to drink, but seemed to ease it. He said that he never went completely sober, but wasn't drinking every day and usually stopped at "three or four" drinks. So, baby steps.

By Plummer's reckoning, his alcoholism stemmed from one of his most noteworthy accomplishments. During the 1980s, he was a pioneer of HIV/AIDS research, helping to determine that the human immunodeficiency virus could be transmitted to children from their mother's breast milk and discovering natural immunity to the virus in sex workers in Nairobi. He claimed that the death and suffering which he witnessed during his research led to his problems with alcohol dependency.

Ultimately, the long-term effects of Plummer's deep brain stimulation treatments will go undetermined, as the BBC reports that he passed away on February 4th, 2020 at age 67 while at a celebration in Kenya. His death was reportedly the result of a heart attack.