Neurofeedback is a non-invasive technique that helps regulate brain activity, and has shown promise in helping mitigate addictive issues. Numerous studies and many personal accounts have suggested that neurofeedback can lead to long-term sobriety. Neurofeedback for addiction often focuses on training individuals to self-regulate specific brainwave frequencies linked to impulse control, emotional regulation, and reward processing. By reinforcing healthier neural patterns through operant conditioning, neurofeedback aims to address underlying neurobiological factors contributing to addictive behaviors. Neurofeedback may have a positive impact on reducing cravings, improving emotional resilience, and aiding in the recovery process.
"The nice thing about neurofeedback ... the client feels less need to self-medicate because they are feeling so much better." - Paul Wager, clinical director, Salvation Army Bell Shelter
A recent review (Schmidt et al., 2017) identified seven EEG neurofeedback clinical intervention trials in substance use disorders since 2010, including four randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Across all seven studies, substances used included opiates (Dehghani-Arani et al., 2010; Dehghani-Arani et al., 2013), stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine (Hashemian, 2015; Horrel et al., 2010; Rostami & Dehghani-Arani, 2015), alcohol (Lackner et al., 2015), as well as mixed substances and polydrugs (Keith et al., 2015).Sample sizes ranged from 10-100, and the number of neurofeedback sessions varied from 10-30. In all studies, neurofeedback supplemented other interventions (e.g., pharmacotherapy, and psychosocial treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT]).The studies reported positive addiction-related outcomes, especially reductions of addiction severity and craving. There were also global psychological and health improvements in most studies.
A word about expectations and outcomes with NFB
Neurofeedback can be a promising avenue for mitigating addiction, but it's important to approach it with realistic expectations and dedication. Here's what you should keep in mind:
Realistic Expectations: Understand that neurofeedback is not a magic solution. Set achievable goals and be patient with the process.
Active Participation: Success in neurofeedback depends on your active involvement. It's not a passive treatment. You must engage in the training process, stay committed, and work closely with your healthcare provider.
Consistency Is Key: Consistent training is essential for seeing results. Make a schedule and stick to it. Regular and ongoing sessions are more likely to lead to positive outcomes.
Communication: Maintain open communication with your healthcare provider. Share your progress, concerns, and any changes in your symptoms. This feedback will help tailor the neurofeedback protocol to your specific needs.
Lifestyle Factors: Neurofeedback is most effective when combined with a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management can complement the benefits of neurofeedback.
Complementary Strategies: Consider combining neurofeedback with other evidence-based treatments, such as behavioral therapy or medication, as recommended by your healthcare provider.
Individual Variability: Remember that responses to neurofeedback vary from person to person. What works for one individual may not work the same way for another. Be open to adjusting the training based on your unique needs.
Long-Term Commitment: Think of neurofeedback as a long-term commitment. Positive changes may take time, and maintenance sessions might be necessary to sustain the benefits. A typical course of neurofeedback for addiction issues is 20-40 sessions.
Final Outcomes: No treatment option is 100% guaranteed. Though neurofeedback has shown efficacy in treatment, it should not be expected to completely eliminate symptoms or be a replacement for medication.
See our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.