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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Supporting Addiction Recovery with Neurofeedback

Substance abuse is an ongoing community problem with alcohol, marijuana and opioid use being some of the most common substances of choice in the Northeast. Over the years, many types of treatments have been used to treat those with addiction, but research demonstrates that addicts experience a high rate of treatment failure. Relapse rates remain high, typically over 70 percent.

  Addiction is a complex issue with many experiencing a high rate of comorbid conditions (PTSD, ADHD, LD, etc.) that further complicate treatment. For example, unresolved trauma or impulsive behaviors can derail treatment. Thus, while treatment often involves offering supports to increase abstinence, it also needs to address other conditions.

Practitioners have sought clinically valid treatments with a high rate of long-term treatment success for addiction. Neurofeedback, a type of brain-based therapy, has a proven track record of increasing abstinence rates since the 1970s. In the late 1980s, Drs. Peniston and Kulkosky developed a therapeutic EEG alpha-theta neurofeedback protocol for addiction. These pioneers in Neurofeedback for addiction not only conducted numerous research studies, but refined the protocols that are still successfully used more than 25 years later.

Peniston and associates demonstrated significantly higher abstinence rates among alcoholics when they incorporated EEG biofeedback into the treatment protocol. Their series of research studies worked with a population of Vietnam War veterans diagnosed with comorbid alcohol abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Eighty percent of subjects in these experiments were abstinent one-year post-treatment. Current research reflects similar findings with reports of approximately 50% to 80% success inpatient and 70% success outpatient.

  The alpha-theta neurofeedback protocol for addicts arises from these individuals’ deficiency in alpha waves (which are calming waves) which triggers substance use, especially alcohol, to increase alpha waves. Addicts are often hyper-aroused and find it hard to maintain a state of relaxed focus. Thus, their brains and nervous systems experience dysregulation. Neurofeedback trains the brain to modulate its activity level adjusting the arousal state according to individual needs thus learning self-regulation. With Neurofeedback, people can learn to control their brain states from within by increasing alpha and theta waves, which reduces their cravings, ultimately breaking the failure cycle.

Neurofeedback is a clinically valid and highly research-based therapy for those struggling with addiction. When integrated into a program that combines psychotherapy and behavioral support, research from Peniston today demonstrates higher success rates and lower relapse rates than the same program without the benefit of Neurofeedback. It is a safe and accessible treatment that should be part of a therapeutic plan when an individual is addressing addiction. 

Submitted by Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge & Associates offers non-medication alternatives for healing mental health conditions. Connect at 203-438-4848, [email protected] and See ad, page 10.