Brief summary of evidence supporting the efficacy of biofeedback for Alcoholism and Substance/Drug Abuse

Yucha and Gilbert (2004) state that researchers have used both biofeedback assisted relaxation training and neurofeedback (alpha-theta brainwave feedback) to deal with alcoholism and its accompanying symptoms (e.g., depression). In comparison to a control group, thermal biofeedback increased drinking related locus of control in a study of adolescent alcoholics (Sharp, Hurford, Allison, Sparks, Cameron, 1997). Alpha-theta brainwave training was accompanied by significant decreases in certain factors measured using the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory (schizoid, avoidant, passive-aggression, schizotypal, borderline, paranoid, anxiety, somatoform, dysthymia, alcohol abuse, psychotic thinking, psychotic depression and psychotic delusional) in comparison to those receiving traditional medical treatment (Peniston Kulkosky, 1990). Taub and his colleagues (1994) studied 118 chronic alcoholics randomly assigned to 1 of 4 treatment conditions: 1) routine treatment of Alcoholics Anonymous and counseling (RTT), 2) RTT plus transcendental meditation, 3) RTT plus EMG biofeedback, and 4) RTT plus neurotherapy. Self-report of abstinence for the four groups were 25%, 65%, 55%, and 28%, respectively. This study suggests that the addition of meditation or EMG biofeedback enhances RTT, while neurotherapy does not.

A number of case studies and uncontrolled studies show benefit of neurofeedback for treating alcoholic depression (Kumano et al., 1996; Waldkoetter Sanders, 1997). A few controlled neurofeedback studies (Peniston Kulkosky, 1989; Saxby Peniston, 1995) provided further evidence for this reduction in depression and reported sustained prevention of relapse at 21-month follow-up in alcoholics who had completed the training (Saxby Peniston, 1995).

* Much of the information provided here is from Carolyn Yucha and Christopher Gilbert's 2004 book "Evidence Based Practice in Biofeedback Neurofeedback" AAPB, Wheat Ridge, CO.

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