Neurofeedback For Addiction – Unlock the Brain’s Potential

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Written By: Dr. Starr, MD, FAACAP

Dr. Starr is a medical doctor, psychiatrist and computational neuroscientist who has been active in Brain-Computer Interface and Neurofeedback since 1990.

To learn more about neurofeedback, please read the article; What Is Neurofeedback. If you are interested in home neurofeedback please read the article; Neurofeedback At Home.

Neurofeedback for Addiction and Its Application in Recovery

Addiction is a complex and multifaceted disease that affects millions of individuals worldwide. Traditional therapies, while beneficial, often fall short in addressing the neurological underpinnings of addiction. Enter neurofeedback for addiction—a promising, non-invasive technique that offers new hope for those struggling with substance abuse. This article explores how neurofeedback can aid in addiction recovery by focusing on brain function, providing real-time feedback, and ultimately aiding individuals in reclaiming control over their lives.

Understanding Addiction and Brain Function

Addiction fundamentally alters brain function, specifically affecting areas responsible for decision-making, impulse control, and reward processing. These changes make cravings more intense and relapse more likely, complicating recovery. Conventional treatments like counseling and medication primarily target symptoms without addressing these underlying neurological issues. This is where neurofeedback stands out, offering a direct approach to rewire the brain and improve cognitive function.

How Neurofeedback For Addiction Works

Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is a method that uses electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor brain wave activity in real-time. Participants wear sensors on their scalp that measure electrical activity in the brain. This information is then fed back to them through visual or auditory signals. The goal is to help individuals learn how to regulate their brain waves, promoting healthier brain patterns and reducing the likelihood of addictive behaviors.

The Process of Neurofeedback For Addiction:

  1. Initial Assessment: A comprehensive evaluation by a neurofeedback professional to identify abnormal brain wave patterns.
  2. Training Sessions: Regular sessions where participants engage with real-time feedback to encourage desired brain wave activity.
  3. Continuous Monitoring: Ongoing assessments to track progress and make necessary adjustments.

Evidence Supporting Neurofeedback in Addiction Recovery

Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of neurofeedback for addiction. Here are some key research findings:

Peniston and Kulkosky’s Study on Alcoholism

In this landmark study, alcoholics underwent alpha-theta neurofeedback training. The results were striking, with participants showing significant improvement in abstinence rates and reductions in anxiety and depression. This study laid the groundwork for further exploration into neurofeedback’s potential in addiction treatment.

Scott and Kaiser’s Research on Cocaine Addiction

Another significant study examined the use of neurofeedback in treating cocaine addiction. Participants displayed decreased cravings and increased control over their drug use after neurofeedback training. These findings highlight the technique’s ability to directly impact the neurological pathways involved in addiction.

Meta-Analysis by Enriquez-Geppert et al. (2017)

This comprehensive meta-analysis reviewed 17 studies on neurofeedback for various addictions. The results were overwhelmingly positive, showing reduced cravings, improved brain function, and decreased relapse rates. This body of evidence underscores neurofeedback’s broad applicability and effectiveness in addiction treatment.

Specific Benefits of Neurofeedback in Addiction Recovery

Neurofeedback for addiction offers several specific advantages for individuals in addiction recovery:

Reducing Cravings

By targeting the brain areas responsible for impulse control and reward, neurofeedback can significantly reduce cravings. This makes it easier for individuals to resist the temptation to relapse.

Improving Emotional Regulation

Many individuals struggling with addiction also suffer from co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Neurofeedback helps balance brain wave activity, improving emotional regulation and overall mental health.

Enhancing Cognitive Function

Addiction often impairs cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and decision-making. Neurofeedback can help restore these functions, enabling individuals to make better choices and improve their quality of life.

Integrating Neurofeedback into a Comprehensive Treatment Program

While neurofeedback is a powerful tool, it is most effective when integrated into a comprehensive addiction treatment program that includes counseling, medication, and lifestyle changes. However, there are challenges to consider, such as the need for specialized equipment and trained professionals, which can make it less accessible for some. Myneurva offers neurofeedback at home.

Potential Challenges:

  • Accessibility: The need for specialized equipment and trained professionals can limit accessibility.
  • Cost: Neurofeedback can be expensive, making it less accessible for some individuals and treatment programs.
  • Training and Expertise: Successful implementation requires trained professionals, which may not be available in all treatment centers.

Future Directions:

  • Technological Advancements: As technology advances, neurofeedback may become more accessible and affordable.
  • Increased Research: Continued research will further illuminate its benefits and potential applications in addiction treatment.
  • Integration with Other Therapies: Combining neurofeedback with other evidence-based therapies could enhance its effectiveness.

Real-World Impact: Case Studies and Testimonials

Case Study: Peniston and Kulkosky on Alcoholism

In this study, participants not only showed significant improvement in abstinence rates but also experienced reductions in anxiety and depression. This dual benefit highlights neurofeedback’s multifaceted approach to addiction recovery.

Case Study: Scott and Kaiser on Cocaine Addiction

Participants in this study exhibited decreased cravings and increased control over their drug use after neurofeedback training, demonstrating its direct impact on the neurological pathways involved in addiction.

Meta-Analysis by Enriquez-Geppert et al. (2017)

This meta-analysis reviewed 17 studies on neurofeedback for various addictions, finding overall positive effects on reducing craving, improving brain function, and decreasing relapse rates. This comprehensive review underscores neurofeedback’s broad applicability and effectiveness in addiction treatment.

Personal Testimonial

A recovering addict who integrated neurofeedback into his treatment program, shares his experience: “Neurofeedback was a game-changer for me. It helped me regulate my emotions and improved my decision-making skills. I feel more in control of my life now, and I believe it played a significant role in my successful recovery.”


Neurofeedback represents a promising frontier in addiction recovery, offering a unique approach that addresses the neurological underpinnings of addiction. By reducing cravings, improving emotional regulation, and enhancing cognitive function, neurofeedback can significantly benefit those in recovery. While challenges remain, ongoing research and technological advancements hold the potential to make this transformative therapy more accessible. For those looking to reclaim control over their lives, neurofeedback may be the key to unlocking the brain’s potential.

Myneurva Is A Global Leader In Neurofeedback and QEEG Analysis

Myneurva is a global leader in computational QEEG analysis. Dr. Starr holds the US patent for a System and method for analyzing electroencephalogram signals.

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