Alpha conditioning as an adjunct treatment for drug dependence: Part I

Goldberg, R. J., et al. (1976). International Journal of Addiction, 11, 1085–1089.

There is abundant evidence for the ability of people to engage in a process that produces some voluntary control of alpha rhythm. Alpha waves predominately originate from the occipital lobe during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes, and are correlated with a relaxed mental state. Further studies indicate a potential relationship between alpha wave production and associated conscious states identical to certain drug-induced states. Considering this, Goldberg et al. endeavored to investigate the potential effectiveness of alpha conditioning for producing and sustaining an alternative experience to that obtained through psychotropic drugs. During this process of alpha conditioning, patients are conditioned to believe they can control their internal states. This conception of self-mastery has been described as motivation for alcohol abuse, and may play a role in other substance abuse. If generalized to other sectors of behavior, it is hopeful that the sense of personal mastery may take part in facilitating rehabilitation.

In this study, four volunteers from a state-subsidized methadone maintenance program participated in ten training sessions of alpha feedback. By the end of the training period, participants reported generally positive results. There was a general increase in the production of alpha and personality tests revealed general trends of greater self-control and a greater internal locus of control. All participants reported that the sessions were significant in making them feel better by providing them with methods to relax and cope with outside pressures. They also all felt less need for tranquilizers and other illicit drugs, and reported decreased use of them. Half of the participants volunteered that the procedure increased their desire to detoxify and amplified their expectation of success in doing so. All four participants desired to continue the training.

The significance of this study lies in its innovativeness in approaching the problem of drug dependence. Alpha feedback may provide an acceptable alternative for drug users seeking mind alteration while additionally providing them with amplified feelings of self-control. The pairing of self-controlled altered states and abstinence from substance use actively work to extinguish the conditioned use of artificial mind-altering. The results of this study show promise for alpha training to help drug users detox more easily and remain drug-free.

Applicability of brain wave biofeedback to substance use disorder in adolescents.

Trudeau, D. L. (2005). Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 14(1), 125-136.

Neurofeedback offers an attractive treatment for addictive disorders because it does not require medication and it is compatible with other therapies. It has shown applicability with difficult-to-treat groups, such as stimulant abusers, incarcerated felons, and chronic treatment-resistant alcoholics.

Addiction protocols typically involve the use of alpha-theta biofeedback, which has been reported to induce states of profound relaxation and contemplation. Alpha-theta brain wave feedback has been used in most addiction protocols. Its first application to addiction treatment was as a supplemental therapy for alcoholics in psychotherapy and 12-step model programs. Following daily 20-minute biofeedback sessions training the alpha-theta brain wave over 6 weeks, patients expressed feelings of “self-actualization.” Subsequent studies have shown the protocol’s potential to improve depression, reduce stress, promote positive changes in personality testing, and increase long-term abstinence.

The application of brain wave biofeedback for the treatment of adolescents and children has thus far been far less than for adults. However, there is no reason to suspect that approaches used in adults would not also be effective for them. Brain wave biofeedback treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be important for prevention for adolescents and children at risk for developing psychoactive substance use disorder (PSUD) since there is a high comorbidity of these disorders in this demographic. This technique is medication free and therefore minimizes opportunities for medication abuse, both through inappropriate self-overdose and and by trading the medication for other substances. Neurotherapy treatment therefore holds promise as a treatment modality for adolescents.


Neurofeedback Training for Opiate Addiction: Improvement of Mental Health and Craving

Fateme Dehghani-Arani, Reza Rostami, Hosein Nadali

This study examined the effects of neurofeedback in addition to pharmacological treatment on opiate-dependent patients. They split twenty men into two groups: one control group who just had pharmacological treatment (Methadone or Buprenorphine) and one experimental group that got neurofeedback treatment in addition to the medication. Their symptoms were assessed with the general health questionnaire (GHQ-28) and the heroin craving questionnaire (HCQ-45)  before and after the two month neurofeedback sessions (30 total session for fifty minutes each). They found that the neurofeedback group had a significant decrease in physical symptoms, depression, and total general health scores. For the HCQ, they found that there was a significant decrease in the desire to use, the anticipation of positive outcome for heroin and a significant increase in release from withdrawal symptoms in the experimental group. The control group had no significant decreases in symptoms. These results suggest that neurofeedback may be used in addition to medicine in order to obtain the best results for treating opiate-dependence.

Effectiveness of Neurofeedback Training as a Treatment for Opiod-Dependent Treatments

Dehghani-Arani, Fateme, et al. (2010). Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, 41, 3; 170 – 173.

Participants with opiod-dependent disorders were put into either a control group that only received pharmacotherapy or an experimental group that was treated with both pharmacotherapy and 30 sessions of neurofeedback training. The results showed that the experimental group showed a greater improvement in neuropsychological factors including interpersonal sensitivity, psychosis, hostility, somatization, and obsession of the participants. Neurofeedback training also led to a decrease in cravings, which led to a decrease of use. These results were found to only apply to patients with without psychiatric patients. More neurofeedback sessions may be required to have significant effects on patients with both opiod-dependent and psychiatric disorders.