A New High-Tech Tool to Treat Addiction – Neurofeedback Treatment

By Dr. Harold C. Urschel III, MD, MMA
Chief Medical Strategist

Giving patients the keys to a successful recovery

Abusing substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs impacts the brain in many ways, and advanced diagnostic imaging technology shows us that heavy, chronic abuse results in a significant alteration of brain activity. The brainwaves become out of synch, much like an orchestra with instruments that are out of tune – or playing the wrong song altogether. Neurofeedback therapy offers a way to return the brainwaves back to their proper state.

Enterhealth – a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment company – recently started using neurofeedback at Enterhealth Ranch residential treatment facility and at Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence with great success. Because neurofeedback treatment can be uniquely tailored to each individual, it is an incredibly useful tool in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction, especially in cases involving dual-diagnosis (the addiction, plus at least one other behavior or psychological issue).

The Enterhealth addiction treatment program is based on the latest National Institutes of Health research, and utilizes an evidence-based approach implemented by board-certified, addiction-trained physicians, psychiatrists, nurses and therapists – and neurofeedback fits neatly into this approach.

What is neurofeedback, and how does it work?

Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback in which brainwaves are measured by EEG to produce a signal that acts as feedback to the subject. This feedback signal, commonly an audio/visual signal provided while watching a movie or playing a video game, is used to teach subjects how to self-regulate brain function using positive reinforcement for desired brain activity, and negative feedback for brain activity that is not desired.

When patients receive neurofeedback therapy, they watch a program that is a bit like a cross between a video and a video game. While watching the program, an EEG machine monitors their brainwaves. When a patient’s brainwaves correspond with the desired pattern, they may continue watching the program. If the patient’s brainwaves start to deviate from the desired pattern, the EEG machine detects this and alters the video, upping the contrast to stark white or dark black. The accompanying audio may change, as well. These changes in the video are the negative feedback. This process is similar to the childhood game of hiding something and telling the person when they are getting “warmer” or “colder.”

Essentially, neurofeedback is a process of reinforcing specific brainwaves that correspond with desired behavior. Or, to put it more plainly, neurofeedback is designed to teach the mind and body to operate at an optimal state in order to improve behavioral, cognitive, physical and emotional experiences.

Seeing the benefits of neurofeedback treatment

Neurofeedback treatment teaches patients how to properly manage their mood and emotions, as well as improve their sleep. By incorporating neurofeedback therapy into our addiction treatment program, we give patients the skills they need to help them gain control, leading to decreased chances of relapse and higher success rates.

This approach has been found to have an especially dramatic increase in the success rates for those with a dual-diagnosis. In combination with medical maintenance, neurofeedback therapy has also been shown to greatly reduce drug or alcohol cravings, allowing patients to focus on treatment, which further increases the likelihood of a successful recovery.

As an emerging technique used to treat addiction, the incorporation of this therapy at Enterhealth gives our medical team another tool to use in our comprehensive evidence-based treatment program. To learn more about how Enterhealth Ranch and Enterhealth Outpatient Center of Excellence utilize neurofeedback treatment, please call 1-855-393-8660, or visit our website at enterhealth.com.