Can Neurofeedback Keep You Clean?

By Valerie Tejeda 08/29/12

The technique, using monitoring of brain activity, is said to be highly beneficial for addicts.

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Small electrodes monitor brain activity.
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Neurofeedback—also known as EEG biofeedback, or NFT (neurofeedback training)—is described as a way of helping your brain to function more efficiently. The science fiction-y sounding technique involves applying electrodes to the scalp to provide "trainees" with real-time information on their brain activity, with the aim of guiding them towards healthier brain patterns. The technique is employed by numerous substance abuse rehabs, and studies claim promising indications for its treatment of disorders as varied as ADHD, autism, headaches, insomnia, TBI and other pain.

Richard Davis MS, LPC, BCN, the president of ISNR (International Society for Neurofeedback Research) and a neurofeedback practitioner, says he's seen lots of success with addicts. “I have worked with most all addictions and my specialty has become sex addiction,” he tells The Fix. “I have also worked with alcohol/drug abuse cases, process addictions, and eating disorders.” He also claims an astonishing success rate of 60-80% of clients staying sober even at their five- and 10-year follow-ups. “Neurofeedback treatment for addictions helps to reduce or normalize anxiety, obsessiveness, compulsivity, and helps the individual to better self-regulate,” says Davis. “In addition, neurofeedback also works to reduce or eliminate cravings.”

Jarod Grant is one addict who vouches for neurofeedback's effectiveness. After years of grueling sports training in his teens, the Californian suffered extreme pain in his twenties. “My body just hurt all the time, so naturally I developed an addiction to painkillers,” he tells The Fix. “I tried rehab, but it just never really worked for me.” When a therapist suggested neurofeedback, Grant was open to the idea—especially since neurofeedback is also used for pain management. “I can honestly say that it helped me a lot. It helped lessen some of the pain, and at this point in my life I am clean," he says. "Mostly it has helped me with the anxieties and stress that come with addiction... I can’t say that it will be a godsend for everyone, but it definitely was for me! So I would suggest to give it a try if you’re not having much luck with recovery elsewhere.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.

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