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Biofeedback as a tool for substance abuse cessation

Biofeedback Basics

Biofeedback.  Quantitative EEG.  ERP. Cognitive-behavioral treatment.  For years, medical professionals have used biofeedback treatments to teach people to recognize how their bodies are functioning and to control patterns of physiological functioning.  But what is biofeedback exactly?  During a biofeedback session, instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. This information is rapidly and accurately “fed back” to the user. The presentation of this information – often in conjunction with awareness of thinking, emotions, and behavior – supports desired physiological changes. Over time, changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.


Biofeedback Review

In a joint university study published in January 2008, spanning thirty years of research to review the efficacy of biofeedback, researchers recently conceded that:

Alpha theta training-either alone for alcoholism or in combination with beta training for stimulant and mixed substance abuse and combined with residential treatment programs, is probably efficacious.  Treatment approaches that have been evaluated and shown to produce beneficial effects in multiple observational studies, clinical studies, wait list control studies, and within-subject and between-subject replication studies merit this classification.”

Probably efficacious.  Gotta love academia.

According to the The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) studies have shown that people who have alcohol abuse problems produce different patterns of brain waves than do people who do not have these problems. Training using neurofeedback (brain wave biofeedback) techniques can result in the abnormal patterns becoming normal. The joint university study also indicated that alpha-theta training, when combined with inpatient rehab treatment for people with long standing alcohol and substance abuse dependency, may lead to psychometric and abstinence improvement.

I for one, am an optimistic believer in the power of re-training the body-brain connection.  But how many treatment centers are suing biofeedback and how many people actually benefit from long-term abstinence?  And what are the necessary attitudes addicts must adapt in order to biofeedback to be of benefit?  Suspended disbelief, openness, willingness and non-judgmental attitudes might be a start.  What do you think?  Can biofeedback work as a way to help addicts and alcoholics learn more about themselves?  Or is the science simply quackery?

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6 Responses to “Biofeedback as a tool for substance abuse cessation
Brian Dooley
4:37 pm November 10th, 2008

How many treatment centers use neurofeedback? A few. Ours for one and it is great. Combining neurofeedback with EMDR is extremely effective. I thank you for your great article.

5:03 pm November 10th, 2008

I’m glad that WayStation is getting success from this type of treatment. What’s your completion rate and do you measure patient success rates after a year, or so?

11:14 am December 16th, 2008

Biofeedback worked wonders for my son with his ADD. I can see how this could help in conjunction with other treatments.

8:46 pm December 16th, 2008

Thanks for sharing. I’m considering this modality to learn a little bit more about my facial expressions (and TMJ) during moments of stress.

Libby | Biofeedback
12:42 am March 3rd, 2009

This is an interesting article. I would hope that if you can train your brain to think/operate differently it would be a huge win for addiction. I would be interested in reading more articles /success stories with biofeedback and addiction.

12:04 am November 17th, 2010

Thanks for making this thing public. I learned a lot related to telekinesis.

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