Neurofeedback and addiction

addiction_0309topic3Addiction is currently one of the most significant health and social problems in America, affecting more than 12 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Medical costs can be up to 300 percent higher for an untreated alcoholic than a treated alcoholic. Other costs to society have reached almost $500 billion, taking into account unemployment, lost productivity, increased crime and justice system/incarceration costs, health care system strain, increased insurance costs, child abuse/neglect and even workplace violence.

It is estimated that every dollar spent on treatment saves between $4 and $7 in costs from drug-related crime and can help reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

A recent study in the journal Biofeedback explored genetic factors that contribute to addiction, in particular, two main underlying brain patterns contributing to addiction: nervous system overstimulation and obsessive-compulsive issues. Just because a gene is present does not mean it is expressed; therefore these patterns may result in different biological/behavioral outcomes.

Neurofeedback treatment was designed based on these two genetic factors (applied to addiction in this study) and implemented in a bio-psycho-social treatment program that included brain recovery exercises, nutrition and counseling. Electroencephalography (EEG) was used to measure quantifiable changes in brain activation patterns.

This type of treatment has the potential to change lives. Jerry, diagnosed with addiction, schizophrenia and developmental delays, entered the program with the goal of going to college. According to EEG results, the schizophrenia diagnosis was incorrect. After 13 months of treatment, his cognitive function increased by 44 percent, his semantic memory systems improved, and “his developmental and learning problems were resolved.” He is now an A student in college and has been sober for two years.

Other case studies showed decreased brain excitability, increased cognitive function between 44-48 percent, stabilized impulse control, and abstinence up to 18 months at time of publication.

This was a small (30 person), non-controlled pilot-study program, therefore the results are not statistically significant, and the authors make no claim for treatment efficacy based on this study alone. It does, however, provide promising information on which to base a more rigorous, controlled study.

To read the entire study “Clinical Outcomes in Addiction: A Neurofeedback Case Series,” download



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