Psychological improvements in patients with substance use disorders have been reported after neurofeedback treatment. However, neurofeedback has not been commonly accepted as a treatment for substance dependence. This study was carried out to examine the effectiveness of this therapeutic method for opiate dependence disorder. The specific aim was to investigate whether treatment leads to any changes in mental health and substance craving. In this experimental study with a pre-post test design, 20 opiate dependent patients undergoing Methadone or Buprenorphine maintenance treatment were examined and matched and randomized into two groups. While both experimental and control groups received their usual maintenance treatment, the experimental group received 30 sessions of neurofeedback treatment in addition. The neurofeedback treatment consisted of sensory motor rhythm training on Cz, followed by an alpha-theta protocol on Pz. Data from the general health questionnaire and a heroin craving questionnaire were collected before and after treatment. Multivariate analysis of covariance showed that the experimental group achieved improvement in somatic symptoms, depression, and total score in general mental health; and in anticipation of positive outcome, desire to use opioid, and relief from withdrawal of craving in comparison with the control group. The study supports the effectiveness of neurofeedback training as a therapeutic method in opiate dependence disorder, in supplement to pharmacotherapy.

A behavioral research team announced today that it has doubled the recovery rate for drug addicts in a study that gave patients feedback on their brain’s electrical activity in conjunction with conventional treatment for drug abuse. William C. Scott, principal investigator of the study, said that across the country, drug rehab programs have generally achieved a success rate of 20 to 30 percent in relapse prevention one to two years following treatment. In the current study, in excess of 50% of experimental subjects remained drug-free a year later. The study used neurofeedback, a technique that trains patients to alter their brainwave patterns as they receive information about those patterns. The researchers placed electrodes on patient’s scalps and displayed the brain’s electrical activity on a computer monitor in the form of an audiovisual exercise. The feedback process informed patients about their success in making changes.

Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback has been employed in substance use disorder (SUD) over the last three decades. The SUD is a complex series of disorders with frequent comorbidities and EEG abnormalities of several types. EEG biofeedback has been employed in conjunction with other therapies and may be useful in enhancing certain outcomes of therapy. Based on published clinical studies and employing efficacy criteria adapted by the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, alpha theta training-either alone for alcoholism or in combination with beta training for stimulant and mixed substance abuse and combined with residential treatment programs, is probably efficacious. Considerations of further research design taking these factors into account are discussed and descriptions of contemporary research are given.