Over the past 20 years, studies have consistently proved the effectiveness of neurofeedback in treating alcoholics and drug addicts. Three of the most prominent studies are:
Peniston, 1989 – a study done in conjunction with the Veterans Administration in Colorado. All subjects were Vietnam veterans who previously had other forms of treatment with unsuccessful results.
They were all severe alcoholics who also suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The subjects were assigned to one of two groups: ten were assigned to the experimental group using neurofeedback therapy, and ten were assigned to the control group, using traditional psychotherapy.
The outcome was an 80% abstinence rate, which is to say that 80% of the subjects stayed sober as of both the three?year and ten year follow?ups, compared to a 20% abstinence rate in the control group.
Additionally, the experimental group also experienced no further issues with PTSD, and all clinical scales were within normal ranges on the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (MCMI) (Peniston, 1998).
Diné (Navajos), 1994 – A neurofeedback study was conducted with 19 alcoholic Native Americans using culturally appropriate treatment. The three?year follow?up showed that 80% of the subjects stayed sober (Kelley, 1997).
Cri-Help, 2003 – Cri-Help is a recovery center in North Hollywood, California. The study included 121 subjects (60 in the control group receiving no neurofeedback; 61 in the experimental group that received neurofeedback training). A three?year follow?up concluded that 77% of the experimental group remained sober (those that received the neurofeedback training) versus 44% of the control group (those that did not receive the neurofeedback treatments).
The Cri-Help study also documented that the neurofeedback training significantly improved anxiety, depression, stress, sleep and other disorders, and the experimental group stayed in treatment 50% longer than the control group (Scott, 2005).
Neurofeedback has been increasingly used successfully as an alternative to medication for ADD and ADHD children, among others (Robbins, 2008). The neuroscience/feedback industry has been around since the 1960’s, with a varied focus. While early studies demonstrated its effectiveness in addiction, it simply wasn’t considered until recently within recovery centers for a variety of reasons. Earlier versions were more complicated and it simply wasn’t available through a provider.
Today, more and more, the addiction treatment industry is turning to neuroscience, as witnessed by the 4th annual Neuroscience Meets Recovery Conference in Las Vegas in October, 2009, and it is being recognized by psychologists familiar with the benefits.