“Neurorehab” is an innovative approach to detox and treatment that employs safe, non-invasive neuro technologies to change brain chemistry and improve overall mental health. The concept and its application are still relatively new, which is why FHE Health, as one of only a few treatment providers that offer neurorehab services, is supporting research into the efficacy of neuro rehab for patients in recovery from drug addiction. In this section, you’ll learn about our latest efforts to further public understanding about how neurorehab works and about how neurostimulation for withdrawal in particular can provide relief to patients in early recovery.
The Need for More Substance Abuse Treatment Options in Detox and Treatment
For this patient population, non-drug, substance abuse treatments that don’t involve potentially addictive medications are an important need. During drug detox, for example, the most common and acute symptoms of withdrawal tend to be anxiety and insomnia. For some patients experiencing these symptoms, doctors may prescribe a sleeping pill like Ambien and/or a medication for anxiety such as a benzodiazepine medication. The problem with this option is that these drugs can be habit-forming for any person— and potentially only more so for a person with an addiction problem. There is therefore a need for more treatment options that are effective at relieving drug withdrawal symptoms but also safe and non-addictive.
Introduction to Neuro Rehab Services and Types of Neurostimulation
In this department, FHE Health provides neurorehab services that together can assist patients with various treatment needs. “Neurostimulation” is one of these services. It refers to various brain stimulation therapies that rely on electrical, magnetic or vibrational currents to jumpstart and accelerate the brain’s own natural capacity to heal itself.
FHE Health uses at least three types of neurostimulation: alternate pulse stimulation therapy; neuro signaling, powered by Thync technology; high-frequency-pulsed, electro-magnetic stimulation therapy; and, biosound feedback. (Learn more about these types of brain stimulation.)
Neurostimulation has been used successfully at FHE Health to relieve cravings and other difficult symptoms of withdrawal during detox and treatment. In an ongoing effort to quantify and better understand how neurostimulation for withdrawal works, FHE Health recently sponsored a research study which was led and facilitated by Director of Neurorehabilitative Services Dr. Nicholas Dogris, Ph.D.
As a seasoned practitioner and researcher in the field, Dr. Dogris was an obvious choice to lead the study. The California-licensed psychologist has more than 30 years of experience in the field, having first begun administering EEGs in 1987. (An EEG, short for “Electroencephalography,” is a brain map produced by a technique for measuring and recording electrical activity in the brain; FHE uses qEEGs, computerized brain maps that help clinicians therapeutically target areas of dysfunction in patients’ brains.) Dr. Dogris is also the CEO and co-founder of NeuroField, Inc. and the CFO of NeuroField Neurotherapy, in Santa Barbara, California— so he is at the forefront of developing and administering new neurotechnologies and constantly working to refine and improve these cutting-edge treatments.
Is Direct Current Stimulation Safe?
Under the direction of Dr. Dogris, the study looked at one type of brain stimulation in particular: direct current stimulation, which comprises transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS). Dr. Dogris wanted to know whether tDCS and tACS were effective at relieving withdrawal symptoms among patients in early recovery from benzos, opioids, and stimulants.
But Dr. Dogris also wanted to confirm the safety of these interventions, by monitoring any potentially adverse effects. In contrast to a paucity of research in the U.S. into the safety and effectiveness of direct current stimulation, multiple studies in Europe and Australia have found direct current stimulation to be safe and effective. But, would our study turn up the same findings regarding tDCS and tACS?
“No serious adverse side effects were reported by patients, neuro-techs, nurses or physicians in the opioid, benzodiazepine and stimulant groups,” concluded Dr. Dogris. He went on to report that “minor side effects included redness of the skin and one incident in which the electrode came away from the skin and the subject reported a blister.” (The procedure involves applying a positively charged cathode and a negatively charged cathode to strategic hubs in the brain, such as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC).)
How Brain Stimulation Works – Neuroplasticity
The principle of neuroplasticity helps to explain how direct current stimulation and other such neurotherapies work. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s innate ability to change and form new neural connections in the aftermath of injury or substance abuse. As a living organ, the brain is constantly interacting with its environment and learning and changing as a result.
The brain is also an amazingly sophisticated bundle of electrochemical energy, emitting different types of brainwaves with varying frequencies and levels of intensity. The underlying assumption behind brain stimulation is that these various electrochemical expressions can be stimulated, manipulated and redirected towards greater brain health. The idea is that with a little prodding in the right direction, the brain learns how to recalibrate itself, repairing neural pathways and building new ones.
Results of the Study – How Direct Current Stimulation Helped Drug Detox Patients
Ultimately, the question of how direct current stimulation helped drug detox patients was answered by looking at their brain maps— and specifically, any changes in brainwaves following the administration of the treatment. EEGs were administered before treatment commenced and then re-administered after treatment had finished. An analysis of the cumulative results found “significant changes” in the delta, theta, beta, high beta and gamma brain wave ranges. Moreover, these changes aligned with what patients were also self-reporting in clinical questionnaires:
- A decrease in anxiety and depression
- Better sleep (and a reduction in insomnia)
These findings are promising for patients in early recovery because they suggest that direct current stimulation can be a safe and effective treatment for the most common and often debilitating symptoms of drug withdrawal.