Neurofeedback for Addictions
The Background of Addictions
Contrary to a widely held belief, addiction is not a moral defect, or a flaw in one's character. It's a brain disorder that is chronic, and involves continued drug use despite the negative consequences. It's considered a brain disorder because drug use actually changes the structure of the brain, and how it works. The brain-based changes produced by drugs can be long-lasting, and can lead to a harmful lifestyle that is actually more dangerous than the drug use itself. Drug addicts use drugs for various reasons; to feel good, to function better in certain situations, like sports or school, and to self-medicate an underlying mental health disorder.
Drug usage may start out as harmless curiosity. It makes a person feel good, and they believe they can control their usage, initially. For some, this is as far as it goes. For others, the consequences are much more severe. Over time, as the brain and body become more and more addicted to the drug, the user needs increase their usage to avoid the withdrawal effects, or even just to feel normal. This increase in the need for the drug is when the usage becomes dangerous. Addiction is one of those disorders that effects the whole family.
In the brain, different drugs have different effects. Alcohol causes a slowing of brainwaves, and results in depressed brain activity and mood. Marijuana produces noticeably high alpha activity over the frontal areas of the brain. Even though marijuana is relatively harmless, chronic use damages the brain. Cocaine and heroin causes produces elevated alpha waves. When high, users often ramble on with highly repetitive content and are unable to stay on track in a conversation, or, conversely, have difficulty staying awake, and often "nod out."
Neurofeedback and Addictions
Neurofeedback for addiction depends on the addiction. In my process, I conduct a mini QEEG assessment in order to identify areas for training with neurofeedback, and then build my protocols off of the results of the assessment. In most cases, treating the underlying mental health condition helps improve the desire to use drugs to self-medicate.
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