Neurotherapy Treatment for Addiction

Human brain, illustration

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It's not uncommon for people with addiction to relapse. In some cases, they are in and out of rehabilitation programs for years without effectively ending their addiction. Neurotherapy, also known as neurofeedback, is an approach that can help successfully end this cycle. 

What Is Neurotherapy?

Unlike some of the other strategies used to treat addiction, neurotherapy retrains the brain. The goal is to change brain networks, ultimately changing behavior. This treatment is also sometimes used for people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Neurotherapy works, in part, by reducing your reaction to emotions or stress. It provides a clearer mindset, which is helpful for making more positive decisions. This includes choosing to continue to abstain from an addictive substance or behavior.

Research shows that neurotherapy offers several other benefits. It reduces the desire for the addictive substance and provides relief from withdrawal cravings. It also helps with somatic symptoms such as pain and fatigue, while improving mental health.

The more benefits a specific therapy offers and the more ways it can help treat or ease an addiction, the greater the chances of a successful recovery, because addiction can often be extremely hard to treat.

Why Addictions Are Difficult to Treat

Addiction is complex. It has numerous causes, some of which are genetic and others that have to do with environment. It also affects a person on multiple levels, impacting their physical and mental health, as well as their relationships with others.

Addictive disorders can be severely debilitating, impacting every area of a person's life. 

Because of this, everyone's experience with addiction is different. Each person has their own story, their own factors that have contributed to their personal addiction, and their own factors that can help them recover. There are treatment-related issues, too.

Many treatment models focus on inpatient stays. However, these programs have a high relapse rate. Some work better than others, but insurance doesn't always cover them. Plus, people are often on their own after treatment, increasing the risk of relapse

There is also still a stigma surrounding addiction. Some people think it is caused by weakness, poor self-control, or a lack of discipline. This can lead those with addiction to feel guilt, shame, and anxiety, making the path to recovery even more difficult.

Neurotherapy vs. Other Addiction Therapies

Of course, neurotherapy isn't the only addiction treatment option. There are many different programs and therapeutic methods from which to choose. Which one is best?

For some people, medication may be used to assist with recovery, such as when the addiction co-exists with a mental health disorder. The issue with this approach is, once the medication is no longer being taken, whether due to treatment ending or the person stopping on their own, relapse can occur.

Conversely, neurotherapy alters brain function. This allows the person with addiction to stay substance-free beyond the initial rehabilitation stages. It teaches them how to respond to triggers without relying on continued use of medications or other devices.

This makes neurotherapy a valuable part of a comprehensive approach to therapy, working alongside medication, support groups, or talk therapy. Research shows that combining therapies can improve neurofeedback's results.

What to Expect During Neurotherapy

Before doing neurotherapy, the therapist may do an electroencephalograph or EEG to measure your brainwave activity. This involves attaching sensors to your head and is a painless procedure.

Next, you play computerized games, with the computer feeding you information both visually (through sight) and auditorily (through sound). You are taught how to use your brainwave patterns to perform the actions requested by the game.

Neurotherapy can also be used when engaged in normal, everyday activities at work, school, or home. This helps you learn how to get your brain to respond more healthily in the environments that you are in most and can reduce addictive behavior and lessen the risk of relapse.

How to Find Neurotherapy Treatment

Your doctor may be able to refer you to a local neurotherapist. It is also helpful to check with your health insurance company to see if your policy will cover any or all of this addiction treatment. If so, you may have to use a specific neurotherapy provider.

The International Society for Neuroregulation & Research also offers an online directory that you can search based on your geographical location or their area of specialty (addictions and substance abuse).

Doing a search for "neurotherapy near me" or "online neurotherapy" may offer additional results too.

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