At any given time roughly 10% of the American population (adults and children) suffer from a substance abuse disorder or addiction according to the National Institute of Health. That means 32 million Americans every year battle their addiction which research suggests is the result of brain abnormalities associated with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and more. Recently, however, new research into a therapy known as neurofeedback is showing that the root causes of drug addiction can be treated in comfortable and safe ways for the patient.
What is neurofeedback and how does it work?
The core principle of neurofeedback is the recording and analysis of your brain’s electrical waves during different states of mind. A trained professional can view and analyze your brain’s electrical activity and compare said activity to otherwise healthy and non-drug-addicted populations. For example, a trained therapist might detect that your theta waves (from your brain) are abnormal. Since theta waves are associated with concentration and higher learning functions, the therapist could then ask patients questions about their findings.
For example, if someone began using cocaine and now is addicted to it because of memory and concentration problems, the odd theta patterns could be the root cause of the problems which began the drug habit. Using that knowledge, the therapist will then work with the patient to find ways to balance out and restore a healthy theta wave pattern. Sometimes simple things like mediation or breathing exercise can do the trick. Other times it may require safe and effective brain stimulation techniques. After the patient returns their theta waves to a healthy balance in real-time, the therapist can then give recommendations for how the patient can mimic the treatment on their own using the therapy tools like breathing and mediation.
What to expect in your session.
A great example of a neurofeedback session was written by a reporter from TheFix. The reporter, like many real patients they is asked to lay down while a trained therapist places electrodes on the scalp of the patient’s head. Electrodes record electric brain activity and are connected to wires which transmit that data to a computer in real-time. During the session, the therapist will first establish a baseline by asking the patient to remain quiet and close their eyes. Next, the therapist may employ a variety of techniques like talking with the patient about different topics related to their drug treatment and addiction. Either way, the therapist is monitoring and analyzing the results in real-time and can therefore also see if changes or techniques have any meaningful impact right away.
Breaking addiction with neurofeedback.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse also backs up the idea of neurofeedback by suggesting that addiction isn’t always something we choose but instead is a type of dysfunction or disease of the brain. Further research also suggests that those suffering from a drug addiction disorder also have a 40-60% relapse rate and are highly unstable during the initial phases of recovery. However, several studies have found that when 12-step programs are used in conjunction with neurofeedback, patients tend to relapse far less than normal.
This suggests addiction is indeed a disease of the brain that requires treatment to the cause instead of treating the symptoms. If you think you have or are forming an unhealthy drug addiction then consider looking into a drug addiction recovery program that also employs neurofeedback like at The Process Recovery Center. Coupling this new and effective technique could be the difference between relapsing and finding a new healthier way to live.