Addictions are very difficult to treat and relapse rates are high. However over the past fifteen years or so a new kind of therapy for addictions has emerged, one that has shown strong, positive results in both short and long term follow-up. Numerous studies have attested to this, the most recent being research done at UCLA. In this study, 77 percent of participants who received neurofeedback along with a 12-step program remained abstinent at 12 months, compared to 44 percent of those who didn’t receive neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is so effective at reducing relapse rate because so many people suffering from substance abuse are also struggling with depression, anxiety, insomnia, and trauma. Because neurofeedback can be so effective at treating these, it is much easier to remain abstinent. Neurofeedback is also extremely helpful withdrawing from antidepressants, sleeping pills, benzodiazepines and other medications. After treatment clients feel more relaxed and less depressed. Their thinking is clearer and they have more emotional resilience. People are not so overwhelmed by their emotions. Their nervous systems stabilize and clients are less over-reactive. Amazingly, changes are enduring. It’s not that someone won’t feel anxiety or depression again, but they will retain an emotional resilience. Emotions won’t be so overwhelming, life won’t be so bleak.
In traditional neurofeedback, electroencephalographic measurements are taken from sensors attached to a client’s scalp. Those measurements are transmitted to a computer monitor, and a person is “rewarded” by results on the screen to increase or decrease certain brainwave patterns. A typical session takes 45 minutes to an hour, and often 40-60 sessions are required.
A more recent form of neurofeedback, called LENS (Low Energy Neurofeedback System), is a radically different and more efficient type of neurofeedback. With LENS, information from sensors on the scalp is fed to a computer. Based on a person’s brainwave patterns a tiny, painless signal is sent back to the brain for just a fraction of a second. This signal causes a slight fluctuation in brainwaves, allowing frozen, dysfunctional brainwave patterns to free themselves, and the brain reorganizes itself. Unlike traditional neurofeedback, which trains the brain, LENS dis-entrains the brain, at least those parts of it that are stuck. In this process the patient just has to sit still for just a few seconds. Initial results are usually seen within the first 4 sessions, and fewer sessions are needed.
The exciting new technology of LENS can also effectively treat ADD/ADHD and mild to moderate traumatic brain injury. LENS can even help OCD and autism, because anxiety and impulse control are often accompanying problems. As those problems improve, the OCD and autism become more manageable. LENS is at the cutting edge of brain bases treatment technologies effective in addiction.