Current scientific evidence points toward a type of brain that is predisposed toward alcohol addiction. Many people have heard of the heritability of alcoholism. An alcoholic is said to have a naturally high tolerance because their livers work just overtime.
An alcoholic’s liver is a real alcohol-metabolizing workhorse. With increased exposure to alcohol over prolonged periods of time, the easier it becomes for a person’s body to get hooked.
Alcohol, like benzodiazepines, can be a powerful anti-anxiety medication. For an anxious person with no other option available, alcohol can be an island of safety and relief. The more often the anxious person takes their “medication”, the greater the likelihood that their bodies will become physiologically dependent.
3 Ways Neurofeedback May Help with Alcohol Abuse
Neurofeedback may offer those struggling to maintain a sober lifestyle a way to get a fresh start and remove a huge part of the suffering that drove them to drink, made it so hard to get clean, and continues to threaten their sobriety.
So, how exactly can neurofeedback therapy help with alcohol abuse?
Treating Alpha Deficiency
Perhaps the most common finding in QEEG studies is that alcoholics typically don’t produce enough alpha waves, especially in the sensory cortex of their brains. Alpha waves are the brainwave most closely associated with relaxation, mindfulness, and rest.
For healthy people, alpha waves increase by 50-100% when they close their eyes (called the “alpha response”). Alpha plays a critical role in the transition to sleep. For those with too few alpha waves, they feel chronically tense, often have trouble sleeping, and are frequently not comfortable in their own skin.
Unfortunately for people with a lack of alpha waves, the first drink of alcohol causes a dramatic increase in posterior alpha. The problem occurs after the alcohol wears off, when alpha waves become fewer than they were before. After the chronic alcoholic gets sober, their alpha power will remain lower than it was before drinking for some time, if not for the rest of their life.
Excessive Beta Waves
Beta waves follow the frequency of volitional and engaged mental activity. In the right amounts, it allows a person to stay focused and get things done. However, excessive beta activity is often the result of thinking too much, sometimes about the same things repeatedly. In the higher frequencies, excessive beta means worry, rumination, and too much thinking.
Beta waves often reflect the degree to which the brain is able to inhibit its own activity. When beta is too high, it may mean the brain is having trouble “turning off”. The brains of alcoholics after becoming sober are markedly higher in beta frequencies.
Alcohol, which activates one of the brain’s main “brake pedals”, can bring on instant relief. Using neurofeedback training, which teaches the client to voluntarily control that activity so they can turn it on when they need to and then turn it off when it is time to rest, can help with beta waves.
Impulsivity and Relapse Prevention
The healthy brain has mechanisms that allow us to stop ourselves from doing something stupid, especially after having done the same stupid thing repeatedly in the past. The regions of the brain involved in the inhibition of behavior are located in the central and frontal regions.
Depending on the QEEG (‘brain map’), sites along these regions can be targeted for neurofeedback training to increase the sober alcoholic’s ability to comfortably abstain from taking the first steps toward drinking. Part of this has to do with the brain’s ability to use past experience to guide current behavior.
Here at Neurohealth Associates, we specialize in Neurofeedback treatments. Neurofeedback may be helpful for treating ADHD symptoms, especially if you are unsure about putting yourself or your child on medication. The easy, noninvasive treatments can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life. Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth today and find out how we can help you.
Neurofeedback training for alcohol dependence versus treatment as usual: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial, Cardiff University