Neurofeedback Therapy for Drug and Alcohol Addiction Rehab

Addiction is a serious disease that impacts thousands of people every year. It's not limited to a gender or age group but can spread across demographic lines. Addicts are such a diverse group of people, so there is no single method of treatment for everyone.

Advanced technologies allow new treatment development. One of these methods involves neurofeedback.

If you've never heard of neurofeedback therapy, it's not surprising. This method of addiction treatment isn't well-known. Regardless, it is gaining ground as a viable treatment option along with traditional approaches. More drug addiction treatment centers are utilizing this process to aid in relapse prevention.



What is Neurofeedback?

In essence, neurofeedback is training or rewiring your brain. However, it's a bit more complicated than that. It uses brainwaves to determine how your brain is functioning and then compares it to how you want it to function. Brainwaves are the brain's cells that speak to each other to create thoughts and feelings. Basically, they control your mood and other functions of the brain.

With neurofeedback, sensors are placed on the scalp to monitor your brain's activity. It tells what activity is causing certain symptoms or conditions. A training plan is created that is designed to bring your brain to the desired state. As your brain reaches the intended response, you receive positive feedback. This is often found in the form of a video game or a movie or music.

When the game or music is playing, it's a signal that your brain is performing the way it should. The game or music stops when your brain moves in the wrong direction. Neurofeedback is like exercise for your brain. Repetition is the key as it takes time for the brain to learn any new skill or habit.

Practical Applications

The information learned from studying neurofeedback has been put into practice for many conditions. It has been used to treat pain, including migraines. It may modify the perception of pain or even increase tolerance for pain so that it doesn't prevent you from engaging in daily activities. In some cases, it can even reduce the pain or eliminate it.

Neurofeedback has been found to be helpful with seizures and other medical conditions as well. Doctors also use it to treat mental health disorders. This treatment basically trains the brain to change itself.

This treatment is used with children for learning or developmental delays as well as emotional and behavior problems. It may be helpful in treating ADHD and dealing with struggles in school. For adults, it helps with sleep, obsession issues, depression, anxiety and more.

How Neurofeedback Works

Before looking at how this procedure works with a person, it's important to understand neuroplasticity of the brain. Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain can retrain itself to perform differently. There are various pathways in the brain. Much of the time, the brain uses the same pathways because people do the same things over and over. As a person repeats a certain behavior or action, the pathway becomes stronger. When they neglect certain behaviors or actions, the pathway becomes weaker.

Neurofeedback Therapy for Addiction

In the past, it was believed that your brain couldn't change once you became an adult. However, studies have revealed that the brain continues to adapt and change throughout a person's life. New pathways can be formed even as the person grows older. The more a person engages in a certain behavior, the stronger that pathway becomes. The idea is that if you want a person to change their behavior, you must create new pathways or strengthen existing ones. To find out which pathways those are, neurofeedback is used.

The doctor places sensors on your head around your ears. This step involves no pain and isn't uncomfortable. The sensors listen to what the brain is doing and records the information. They measure EEG activity, which is essentially your brainwaves. A session can last from 10 to 30 minutes and records the brain's activity.

The brain receives feedback based on its activity. Positive feedback leads the brain to move into the direction where it makes the desired changes. Negative feedback causes it to move away from that behavior.

Many people wonder if this treatment method will last. It is a permanent change to your brain, just like learning any new skill on your own. When a person learns how to do something, they don't forget even if they don't do that activity for a long time. It's just like the saying, "You never forget how to ride a bike."

It's important to note that neurofeedback is not the same as brain games even though it may use games as part of the treatment. Games like Lumosity will help you learn a new skill, but they don't rewire your brain. This treatment changes the pathways in your brain which can alter your behavior permanently in many ways.

How Neurofeedback Works with Substance Addiction

One area where neurofeedback is seeing a lot of attention is in regards to substance use disorders. More drug addiction treatment centers are using this technology as part of their relapse prevention program. To recognize how it helps, you must first understand what happens to the brain with drug abuse.

You may have seen the old TV commercial which says "This is your brain and this is your brain on drugs." The idea behind that ad involved the belief that drug abuse changed your brain. Studies have found this idea to be fact.

When a person uses an addictive substance such as alcohol, heroin or prescription drugs, the chemicals in those substances attach to an area of the brain. They connect to the brain cells which alters how they communicate with each other.

The majority of drugs abused provide dopamine to the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control pleasure, emotions, and movement. When it's present naturally, it rewards good behaviors. For example, you work out at the gym and more dopamine is released which makes you feel good even though you're tired.

When dopamine floods the brain due to drug use, it creates euphoric feelings. When the drug leaves the system, it causes the body may crave that euphoria. The brain is trained to seek out more of any behavior that produces a reward.

When a certain action is followed by the release of dopamine and good feelings result, the brain remembers that action and wants to repeat it.

Drug abuse is so addictive because the substance often releases up to 10 times the amount of dopamine as what you would get with other activities. The euphoria can happen faster and last longer than what you would feel with a natural reward such as food. This makes the brain think it's even more important than other behaviors.

It motivates the person to repeat the drug use, which leads to stronger pathways in the brain for this behavior. Over time, with continual drug use, the pathways governing the abuse will be stronger than any other actions or behaviors. This is why you see long-term addicts who seem to care about nothing but getting more of the drug.

The brain stops making dopamine on its own, which leads to feelings of lifelessness and depression when they aren't taking the drug. They must continue to use to try to get their dopamine levels back to normal and to feel any sense of pleasure. They will need to increase the amount they're using to achieve the desired effect. This leads to a vicious cycle they can't destroy on their own.

Because the drug use affects the brain so strongly, other signals are often ignored. The result is the person will seek out drugs at any cost. They aren't able to make good decisions or to focus on other actions. Over time, the cognitive function of the brain may be damaged, which means the person cannot think clearly or remember things. While any addictive drug can create a similar response, some are more dangerous than others because of how quickly and how strongly they can impact the brain. These drugs are also usually more addictive, such as heroin and meth. They can trap a person with the first use.

Once a person stops using drugs and gets help, you may wonder why they would ever go back to using again. Relapsing isn't a sign of weakness like some think. It can happen to anyone, even someone who has been sober for years.

Relapse often occurs when someone has gone through a negative experience or had negative emotions. They may forget how they've been handling stress or other problems since treatment and go back to their old ways of thinking.

A prime example of when and how relapse can happen is in this scenario: a recovering alcoholic is invited to a party at work. They show up and say hello to their co-workers. Everyone else is having a cocktail before the meal and a glass of wine or beer at dinner. The alcoholic feels conspicuous as the only one not drinking even though no one else is paying attention. They feel the pressure to drink to fit in even though it's all in their mind. The person is at risk for relapsing if they don't remember the lessons they learned in therapy about how to deal with such situations.

Can Neurofeedback Help Addiction?

When you see someone caught up in the vicious cycle of addiction, it may look like the situation is hopeless. Often, the person tries to get clean, perhaps even attending treatment, only to relapse when the cravings for the drug become too strong. If you have a loved one who has been down this road, you may think nothing can help them. Don't give up on them because there are still options available. Neurofeedback is one method of treatment that has seen some powerful success.

This treatment is used as part of a holistic approach to treating substance use disorder or addiction. The idea is to help the person make a more permanent change instead of relying on medications to alter their behaviors. The goal is to help regulate the emotions and reduce cravings for the drug.

Neurofeedback may be prescribed for detox to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. Through the sessions, you can begin to feel calmer and less irritable. You may be less anxious and better able to sleep. You'll be more likely to complete treatment rather than relapsing.

Once you're in addiction rehab, the procedure can help you achieve the same effects as what you had with the drug but without the addiction. For instance, people who take meth have more energy and feel more confident. Those who drink alcohol or take other drugs may notice they are more relaxed. Neurofeedback can mimic these feelings in a more natural way. It trains your brain to be relaxed or more energetic without the need for the drugs.

The therapy also helps with relapse prevention. It rewires your brain to think in a new way. Instead of being drawn to the idea of drinking or using drugs when feeling stressed, the addict will automatically think of other, positive ways of dealing with the situation. Through treatment, the person will have received feedback about better ways of handling stress which is what they will lean towards when negative situations occur.

Many people who suffer from addiction also have a mental health disorder. In fact, in numerous cases, the mental illness may have led to the drug abuse as a way to deal with the symptoms. Some of the most common mental conditions that are associated with drug addiction are the same ones which are treated by neurofeedback therapy.

For example, a person suffering from depression may turn to alcohol to help them relax or meth to give them energy and a better outlook on life. Neurofeedback also targets depression to help the person develop more positive emotions. Other mental health conditions associated with addiction include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic attacks

Because neurofeedback is retraining the brain, it can help resolve the symptoms of many of these conditions even as it works to help the person manage their addiction.

It's important to know that addiction and mental health disorders aren't usually curable. Neurofeedback won't cure a person, but it will retrain the brain to deal with the symptoms in a new way or reduce the symptoms completely.

Anytime a person engages in a negative behavior and continues in that activity, they are reinforcing the brain's pathways. Future treatments may be necessary to sustain recovery if the pathways from the brain venture too far from the retrained state.

These sessions do provide long-term success. You don't have to worry about the brain forgetting what it has been taught to do. You can compare neurofeedback therapy and addiction to diabetes management. In the past, it was difficult to manage diabetes because you never know how high a person's glucose level was. Now that there is a testing device, you can monitor those levels and make adjustments as needed with your diet or insulin. Thanks to the use of glucose devices, it allows you to use the right amount of insulin at the right time and enjoy a healthy life with what once was thought of as a terminal disease.

If neurofeedback can break the pattern of addiction and many mental illnesses and train your brain to stay calm even under stress, you can avoid the fate of many drug addicts who have failed to maintain sobriety and even died from their addiction. Because it manages your mood and emotions, it can regulate those areas of the brain that are susceptible to addiction and are altered by long-term drug abuse.

The Benefits of Neurofeedback for Addiction Therapy

Neurofeedback has been helpful in treating drug addiction for many reasons. For one thing, there are no side effects like you may experience with medication-assisted treatment. It's not invasive and won't cause pain or discomfort. It can help you sleep, which is a major problem for many addicts in treatment. When you're able to get your rest, you can handle situations better. It can help stabilize your mood and improve your emotions.

People who receive neurofeedback therapy are often more committed to staying in treatment. They may also be more open during individual counseling and group therapy so they get more out of those sessions.

This type of therapy isn't used alone. Instead, it's included as part of a complete treatment plan when the person is assessed at the beginning of their program.

Seek Treatment for Addiction at AspenRidge

AspenRidge is a drug addiction treatment facility located in Denver, Colorado. It's situated near the Rocky Mountains, which make a fabulous backdrop for a recovery program. This premiere facility includes neurofeedback as part of the treatment plan for addicts.

The therapists at AspenRidge believe in the ability of neurofeedback to return patients to a pre-addiction state. It's useful for the treatment of withdrawal and may help with anxiety and sleep issues faced by those addicts who have been using stimulants. It also helps those who have been addicted to opioids, alcohol and other depressants to improve concentration while lessening anxiety.

Neurofeedback therapy is mandatory at AspenRidge for both inpatient and outpatient services. It's supervised by licensed therapists who have been trained on this technique and certified. Every session is also reviewed by a medical doctor for increased transparency and accountability. Patients who enter our program will receive at least one session each week of their treatment and may have two. There is no cost for anyone who has health insurance. For those who pay cash, they receive a major deduction to help make this valuable resource more affordable.

If you're looking for a drug rehab center to help you or a loved one overcome the battle of addiction, AspenRidge has a lot to offer. Addiction treatment incorporates the 12-step program while including family therapy and community involvement. In addition to individual counseling and group therapy, patients get involved in fun activities such as game nights, sporting events and movies. They can go on day trips or hiking adventures. Daily meetings ensure each addict has the support and resources they need to make the necessary changes in their life so they can be successful in recovery.

We use a variety of tools for assessment and treatment of addiction, utilizing evidence-based programs that have shown positive results. The goal with AspenRidge is not only to help you stop using drugs but to equip you with the tools you need to maintain sobriety for the long-term. If you want to know more about our facility or about how neurofeedback can help you, give us a call today.

Talk to a Rehab Specialist

Our admissions coordinators are here to help you get started with treatment the right way. They'll verify your health insurance, help set up travel arrangements, and make sure your transition into treatment is smooth and hassle-free.

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