The field of addiction treatment has been struggling for years to improve it’s overall efficacy rate. It’s well known that even after rehab, the relapse rate for substance use disorders is estimated to be between 40% and 60%. 1 Rehab can be very expensive, and with such a high replapse rate clearly more tools are needed to augment the effectiveness of traditional treatments.
Many treatment center acroos the world are beginning to integrate alternative medicine therapies into their work with addiction, such as acupuncture, massage, equine therapy, and even specialized trauma- release therapies like EMDR.
An exciting addition to the tool box has come recently through the widespread rise in the use of neurofeedback for addiction treatment. Research suggests that neurofeedback training can be helpful for those who are struggling with addiction.
As is being recognized, addiction is a multi- faceted disease that requires an integrated treatment approach. The traditional model of 12- step based recovery is outmoded and has been shown to be widely ineffective in keeping addicts or alcoholics clean and sober.
The view is that addicts are morally flawed and lacking in willpower is a stigma the disease is only starting to overcome. A brain-based treatment strategy, where the physiological causes underlying addiction are addressed first allows for a more effective approach overall, not to mention it is a much more sane and humanistic way of addressing the problem.
Treatment centers, for all their expense, traditionally don’t have much success:
“Looking for answers to this question, TIME writer David Sheff, who almost lost his son to drug addiction, spoke to Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and founder of the National Center on Addiction and Substance. Califano told Sheff, “The therapeutic community claims a 30% success rate, but they only count people who complete the program.” Califano adds that the other 70-80 percent have dropped out by the 3-6 month marker.”
There are some addiction treatment centers working to change this trend, and one of the techniques they are adding to addiction treatment protocols is neurofeedback. A recent booklet put out by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation explains addiction as a brain disease.
Neurofeedback and Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a disease of the brain, because the abuse of drugs leads to changes in the structure and functioning of the brain. This is where neurofeedback comes in. Neurofeedback, applied by the properly trained practitioner, can make measurable changes in the functioning of various areas and parts of the brain. By training the individual to regulate their own brain patterns through feedback and adjustment, permanent changes can be made in the brain, measurable with a qEEG device made for monitoring and mapping the brain.
This preliminary addiction treatment study compared the effectiveness of neurofeedback and medications versus medications alone in the treatment of 100 patients who were addicted to methamphetamine. Results showed that the patients who received neurofeedback and medications had lower severity of addiction, better mental health and better quality of life than those who were treated with medication alone.
A research team at UCLA was able to double the recovery rate for drug addicts in a study that gave patients feedback on their brain’s electrical activity in conjunction with conventional treatment for drug abuse. In excess of 50% of experimental subjects remained drug-free a year later. William C. Scott, principal investigator of the study, said that across the country, drug rehab programs have generally achieved a success rate of 20 to 30 percent in relapse prevention one to two years following treatment. 2
Another study looked at the effectiveness of neurofeedback in the treatment of opiate addiction. One group of opiate addicted pateints received medication while another group received medication and 30 sessions of neurofeedback. They found that the group that received neurofeedback showed improvement in “somatic symptoms, depression, and total score in general mental health.” Addicts also gained relief from withdrawal cravings when compared to the group who were treated with medication alone.
If you are struggling with addiction in Fort Collins or the surrounding Colorado area, and would like to try neurofeedback, schedule your brain map QEEG recording at the Wholeness Center today!
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Treatment and Recovery.
2. Effect of EEG Biofeedback on Chemical Dependency [pdf] by Kaiser DA, Scott W – Anaheim, January 21.
Updated July 2020