Thursday, February 18, 1999 Published at 10:58 GMT
Brain operation for addicts
The technique is cheap and involves removing tissue from the brain
Russian surgeons are claiming high cure rates for a controversial treatment for heroin addiction which involves drilling holes in patients' heads and removing parts of their brain.
The operation involves drilling holes into the brain and removing tiny parts of the brain which they claim govern drug addiction.
So far the surgeons have tried the technique out on more than 100 patients.
Their high success rates mean the technique could soon attract worldwide interest.
Professor Svyatoslav Medvedev, who leads the Institute's team, says the operation is a radical breakthrough in the treatment of heroin addicts.
"I don't know any other methods which can successfully remove this psychological dependency.
The ability to communicate with patients during the operation is intended to help ensure surgeons do not damage other vital parts of the brain.
Working slowly, they use waifer-thin needles to probe brain tissue as well as a compressor adapted from a car foot pump.
The surgeons do not boast that the treatment is a miracle cure.
They say if patients return to drugs their addiction may come back. Also, they cannot control the social environment in which patients live.
St Petersburg faces huge economic problems and drug use there is out of control.
Last year, two tonnes of heroin were found in port of St Petersburg.
But several former patients back the operation. Sveta says she feels like a new woman two months after she went to the Institute.
She said: "This operation was my last chance. All my previous attempts had ended in failure. Since the surgery I have not felt the need for heroin at all."