Until only quite recently, there was mainly one line of treatment for drug or alcohol addiction: medical detox, “medication-assisted treatment” in some cases, and behavioral therapies addressing the roots of a patient’s substance abuse. The notion that you could help a patient literally rewire their brain, building their neuropsychological resilience to an addiction, seemed too good to be true.
Similarly, for other mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, standard mental health treatment has typically comprised medication (such as SSRIs) and individual therapy; and in some cases, mental health rehab (an extended period of inpatient treatment) may be necessary.
How New Neuro Technologies Can Improve Treatment Outcomes
Promisingly, this treatment landscape is now expanding, thanks to new “neuro” technologies that can precisely identify areas of dysfunction in the brain, therapeutically target those places with various non-invasive, neuro rehab interventions, and quantifiably measure patients’ treatment progress.
FHE Health is one of a small number of U.S. treatment centers employing these neuro technologies in treating patients and tracking and measuring the outcomes. This may be why the Florida-based provider’s treatment programs draw patients from around the country, many of whom come for the neuro rehab services that FHE Health offers.
The Mental Health Promise of Neurostimulation
Dr. Nicholas Dogris heads the neuro rehab department at FHE Health. He has been studying the impact of neurostimulation— a non-invasive brain intervention that involves direct electrical, magnetic and/or other vibrational stimulation to the brain—on the brains of patients recovering from substance abuse.
In a recently concluded study, Dr. Dogris set out to study and track how one form of neurostimulation, known as “transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS),” changed patients’ brains and affected their recovery. When the results came in, they were highly encouraging:
- After a course of tACS, patients’ EEG tests (brain imaging results) had markedly improved (from what they had revealed prior to treatment with tACS).
- Patients reported significant reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression and said they were sleeping better.
- And, there were no adverse effects from tACS.
In an interview about these findings, Dr. Dogris said, “We’re innovating the most effective use of neurostimulation technology in a substance abuse setting that’s above and beyond what’s typically done in detox centers, and we’re achieving significant changes— not only in the brains of these people, but they report their symptoms have dropped significantly.”
How Neuroimaging Improves the Diagnosing and Treating of Addiction and Other Mental Health Problems
Before clinicians can determine whether neurostimulation or another neuro therapy is the best course of treatment for a patient, they need to be able to identify areas of dysfunction in the brain. Brain imaging scans like the qEEG allow clinicians to make these judgments, by providing a digitized map of the brain and its overall health.
The qEEG, paired with other in-person assessment tools, helps ensure that a patient is getting an accurate and objective diagnosis. After all, brain imaging provides an empirical picture of what’s really happening in the brain, whereas clinical evaluations and assessments—while still very helpful—can be more subjectively skewed. Not only that, but a more accurate diagnosis can also mean that patients receive a more targeted, customized plan of treatment, one that can be tracked and measured during a patient’s time in rehab.
The application and ongoing innovation of technologies like the qEEG and neurostimulation thus offer a message of hope to anyone struggling with addiction or another mental health disorder: that your brain can heal, and that recovery is possible.