ADDICTION AND THE BRAIN
In modern psychiatry the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) substance use disorder (SUD) is defined as a pattern of behaviors and symptoms that arise from an addiction to a substance despite negative effects. The most simple way to understand addiction is that it is a learned behavior, which is often exhibited in response to the individual’s attempt to regulate their function and emotion. As emotion is at the core of the most basic functions of the human experience it provides intoxicating substances a very powerful, although short-term advantage in overcoming perceived challenges and stressors. Furthermore, by placing additional disruptions to the brain SUD is known to precipitate an increase in the severity of existing mental health conditions, or additional ones, which in turn increase the risk of continued substance use.
Current treatments of addiction consist of either medically managed detox, and residential or outpatient rehabilitation programs with modest success rates, which are less due to their design but more to the mismatch between their scope of influence and the actual neurological root of the addictive process.
An intervention that is able to reduce the feelings such as restlessness, irritability, nausea, and insomnia that typify the cravings of SUD and addiction would prove to be distinctly advantageous in the rehabilitative context/recovery.
Around 15% of the US population (1 in 7) suffer from SUD
Over 60% of adolescents that are in SUD treatment programs also meet criteria for another mental illness
Presence of other mental disorders (anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, etc.) increase an individual's likelihood of developing SUD
SUD may precipitate mental health disorders in those with family history of mental health disabilities
50,000+ overdose deaths occurred in 2021, in which opioids have been the major cause
Research on SUD over the past 20+ years shows:
Characterized by physiological dependence and accompanied by the withdrawal syndrome upon abstinence from the drug
Current treatments of SUD show only a 50% success rate
The posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) is a brain structure often implicated in SUD, especially in the PTSD population
SUD is a learned behavior that is underpinned by the function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC)
64% of individuals with SUD have shown abnormal brain wave (EEG) profiles
SUD cases show a predominance of beta brainwave (EEG) activity during the resting state, which is highly associated with hyperarousal
Neurofeedback and brain change
Neuroplasticity (malleability) of the brain provides opportunity to change dysfunctions associated with SUD
Neurofeedback epitomizes the definition of a non-invasive intervention
Success rates of neurofeedback show no less than 70% of all outpatient programs
Neurofeedback uses QEEG assessments to profile exactly which parts of the addicted brain shows dysregulation
Training sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) targets the hyperarousal markers associated with SUD
Targeting the PFC and PCC with neurofeedback shows significant reductions in symptoms of addiction
The ever changing environment of the modern world presents novel pressures that exert novel challenges on the functions of both brain and body, and the ability to adapt to its demands may also require a modernized update to those very same skills. The development of neurofeedback offers new hope for modulating the performance of the brain to keep up with the ever changing landscape of challenges of the modern world. Neurofeedback epitomizes the definition of a non-invasive modality that holds so much promise for the alleviation of drug and alcohol addiction, and the opportunity to regain one’s health and life.