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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 other mental health predispositions 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.

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Around 15% of the US population (1 in 7) suffer from SUD

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Over 60% of adolescents that are in SUD treatment programs also meet criteria for another mental illness

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Presence of other mental disorders (anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, etc.) increase an individual's likelihood of developing SUD

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SUD may precipitate mental health disorders in those with family history of mental health disabilities

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50,000+ overdose deaths occurred in 2021, in which opioids have been the major cause

Research on SUD over the past 20+ years shows:

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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

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SUD is a learned behavior that is underpinned by the function of the prefrontal cortex (PFC)

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64% of individuals with SUD have shown abnormal brain wave (EEG) profiles

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SUD cases show a predominance of beta brainwave (EEG) activity during the resting state, which is highly associated with hyperarousal

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Neurofeedback and brain change

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Neuroplasticity (malleability) of the brain provides opportunity to change dysfunctions associated with SUD

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Neurofeedback epitomizes the definition of a non-invasive intervention

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Success rates of neurofeedback show no less than 70% of all outpatient programs

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Neurofeedback uses QEEG assessments to profile exactly which parts of the addicted brain shows dysregulation 

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Training sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) targets the hyperarousal markers associated with SUD 

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Targeting the PFC and PCC with neurofeedback shows significant reductions in symptoms of addiction

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