Neurofeedback Use for Addiction
Training Your Brain with Neurofeedback
Alcohol and drugs are addictive substances that, when used, have the ability to change one’s neurological functioning. People are able to control their brain’s states from within, and in this way, addicts may overcome their need and want to use addictive substances. Neurofeedback, also commonly referred to as EEG biofeedback, can train a person’s brain to regulate the level of activity, either becoming more activated or less activated, depending upon the person’s needs.1 According to the International Society for Neurofeedback & Research (ISNR), alcoholism involves over-activation in the person’s brain; therefore, neurofeedback can teach the brain to slow down.1 On the other hand, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a common mental disorder, involves under-activation, and neurofeedback can help it to learn to speed up.1
How Neurofeedback Works
ISNR states that neurofeedback is able to improve treatment outcomes in ways that current mainstream approaches cannot. First, the patient undergoes a quantitative EEG, and their needs are individualized.1 For example, alcoholics are commonly found to be lacking in alpha and theta waves, which are associated with a relaxed and alert state.1 This is why, alcoholics often find it difficult to relax. Interestingly enough, these patterns are often present in alcoholics before they even begin to use; therefore, alcoholism only makes it worse.1 At this point, alcoholics will feel anxious and chronically stressed and tense, which makes them reach for another drink.1 Alcohol actually increases alpha and theta waves for a temporary period of time, producing a euphoria.1 However, it is a vicious cycle, as the euphoria wears off, they tend to feel more anxiety and stress than before.1
Neurofeedback teaches alcoholics to first increase their amount of alpha waves and then to work on theta waves.1 The patient is asked to progress into an extremely relaxed state, often in a darkened room, sitting in a reclining chair and warmed with a blanket.1 With their eyes closed, they will receive feedback through a set of headphones, based on their thoughts and wave states.1 Neurofeedback also is used for users of cocaine and methamphetamines, who often have an overabundance of theta waves.1
Neurofeedback and Recovery Rates
Research states that recovery rates double for those who have undergone neurofeedback on top of detoxification and other recovery therapies. Principal investigator of a study collaboration between CRI-Help and EEG Spectrum, William C. Scott, stated that drug rehab programs across the country have achieved between a 20 and 30 percent success rate in relapse prevention, with 50 percent of their study participants staying clean after a year check-up.2 The group of patients received between 40 and 50 neurofeedback sessions that were directed at improving cognitive function and mood regulation.2 For those who it didn’t initially work for, researchers say there is no harm in trying a second time.2 Research in the field is always improving.
 Collins, Al. “Neurofeedback for Addictions: The State of the Science.” ISNR: International Society for Neurofeedback & Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. <http://www.isnr.org/neurofeedback-info/addiction.cfm>.
 Kaiser, D.A., and W. Scott. “Effect of EEG Biofeedback on Chemical Dependency.” EEG Research Info. N.p., 21 Jan. 1999. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. http://www.eeginfo.com/research/articles/substanceabuse_1.htm. Neurofeedback.