Recent studies report on the promising potential demonstrated by neurofeedback therapy in the treatment of chronic alcoholism, widely recognized as a particularly challenging and difficult treatment problem. The signature EEG brainwave pattern of those addicted to alcohol shows low levels of alpha and theta waves.
“A University of Connecticut School of Medicine researcher, Lance Bauer, has found that use of quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) is a reliable tool to predict which patients with histories of abuse of alcohol, cocaine, or opioid dependence are prone to relapse. QEEGs were given to 107 substance-dependent patients enrolled in a treatment program and to 22 controls with history of substance abuse. A QEEG was administered when the patients had been free of alcohol or drug use for an average of three months. The patients were then monitored for the next six months to see if they resumed using. It was observed that the 48 patients who relapsed shared a similar characteristic, namely their QEEGs showed an increased amount of high-frequency activity, compared to the 59 patients who maintained abstinence and to the 22 control subjects. This high-frequency activity on the QEEGs was found to far outweigh clinical and demographic variables as a predictor of relapse.” (Counselor, February 2002)
The use of alcohol tends to increase levels of alpha and theta waves. Research shows that neurofeedback also tends to increase levels of these waves, providing an effective alternative for addiction treatment.
For example, one group of alcoholics received traditional treatment while another received experimental treatment including neurofeedback in one study. In a four-year follow-up, 80% of the experimental group remained sober compared to only 20% of the traditionally treated group. In addition, the experimental group showed improved psychological adjustment on many scales of personality testing compared to the traditional group.
Another study showed similar results with drug addiction in an inpatient residential facility, treating experimental and control groups whose drug of choice was either cocaine or a methamphetamine. Adding neurofeedback to conventional therapies appeared to increase the length of time patients stayed in treatment so they could improve attentional and personality factors and increase the likelihood of permanent abstinence. Experimental group members relapsed 19% compared to 42% of control group members and showed marked improvement in personality testing.
Furthermore, we concur with the experience of therapists across the country: neurofeedback has proved useful in the treatment of many other addictions, including sex and gambling