“In all my years of teaching a careers class, I have never had a student raise their hand and say ‘I want to be an addict!” (LaRiviere, Sara Ed.D, Interview 2011).
Addiction is becoming ever more prevalent in our society. There is growing evidence of addictions to smart phones, social media, and video games as well as opioids and other substances. People of all ages and all identities struggle with addiction. It can leave those affected feeling powerless and hopeless.
The list of symptoms is as long as the multitude of drugs (illegal and prescription) and other substances being abused. Since the brain is adaptive, larger and larger doses of drugs/alcohol will be needed by the user to achieve his/her sought after effects. This cannot only lead to overdose, but can increase negative reactions during withdrawal which can precipitate relapse.
Withdrawal takes on the opposite characteristics of those observed when the drug is being used. For example, those withdrawing from cocaine (a stimulant) will experience deep depression. Those withdrawing from alcohol (a depressant) will experience anxiety and sleepiness. Therefore, as people withdraw from the desired effects of the drugs they are abusing, they will experience exacerbated reactions of the kind they have been trying, often for years, to avoid. This is one of the main reasons for relapse.
For these reasons, we concentrate at BiofeedbackWORKS on the emotional as well as physical effects of alcohol/drug abuse. Working closely with the client one-on-one, we can intercept negative emotional responses and give our clients coping strategies to make recovery and avoiding relapse easier.
Abnormal patterns of brain wave activity found in the qEEG such as an increased or a decreased brainwave activity can be regarded as a sign of brain dysfunction and can be correlated with specific symptomatology. A variety of qEEG studies of addicts have shown specific abnormal patterns of brainwave activity typical of this population.
The qEEG mapping studies of individuals abusing alcohol showed irregularities of brainwaves activity such as an excess of fast beta waves, and lower levels of alpha and theta waves. These patterns, or markers, are associated with a predisposition to develop alcoholism. Studies have shown that these abnormalities persisted in individuals even after prolonged periods of abstinence and were more prominent in individuals who had a history of chronic relapse.
The qEEG studies of Methamphetamine users showed an increase in delta and theta bands as compared to non-drug-using controls. These studies suggest that methamphetamine abuse is associated with psychomotor slowing and frontal executive deficits.
Qualitative and quantitative EEG measurements in cocaine users show different EEG characteristics due to the toxic effects of the drug on the brain as well as a predisposition toward developing substance dependency. Studies of the effect of cocaine on the brain indicated, besides an increase in beta and delta activity, frontal alpha activity. In addition, several qEEG studies point to an association between the amount of beta activity and relapse in cocaine abuse.
At BiofeedbackWORKS, we understand addictions. We know where they live in the brain. And we know how to give people the help they need to live a drug/alcohol free life.
Most addicts have a “drug of choice.” While they may use many substances to get and stay “high” there is always one substance they generally prefer. That’s because their particular “go to” drug helps regulate their brain in a way that provides them with immediate relief. Since there are many different kinds of drugs and many different brain patterns, before we can start training we need to get an overview of how our client’s brain is functioning.
We begin our treatment with the Quantitative Electroencephalograph (qEEG) to identify the most significant problem areas, looking for the most outstanding abnormalities of brainwave activity. Neurofeedback training consists of employing protocols created to normalize these specific abnormalities. Since no two brains are alike, our protocols are individualized to target each client’s specific brain patterns.
Neurofeedback can help clients train their brains to produce a more normal brainwave activity thus reducing their need to self medicate a brain imbalance. As a result, cravings are reduced, recovery is enhanced and relapse becomes less likely. However, addictions are not predicated only on physical (brain) instabilities. Since research shows a person’s emotional growth becomes impaired as soon as drug/alcohol abuse begins, we know our neurofeedback clients who have counseling included in their treatment plans make greater gains.