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Addiction Treatment

BiofeedbackWhen a person is in treatment for substance abuse or addiction, recovery is often best approached from a mind, body, and spirit perspective. One way to incorporate this holistic perspective in recovery is to consider alternative treatment methods. These are a complement to traditional medical therapies, such as counseling, medical detox and relapse prevention training. Examples of alternative therapies include meditation, acupuncture, and a treatment known as biofeedback.

Biofeedback is an alternative treatment therapy option that is designed to reduce common side effects that accompany sobriety, including muscle tension, increased heart rate, and high blood pressure. It involves using special instruments to help a person learn how to control their body’s reactions. This is helpful because someone in recovery often has used drugs and/or alcohol as a response to stress in the past. Biofeedback is a way for patients to learn how to control stress responses, which can improve the recovery period.

How does Biofeedback Work?

There are a variety of devices that a biofeedback therapist can help patients use in recovery. This treatment is often used as a therapeutic technique in physical therapy clinics, recovery centers, and medical centers.

Examples of monitors used during Biofeedback include:
  • Brainwaves: By attaching painless electrodes to your scalp, a brainwave monitor can watch your brainwaves via a technique known as an electroencephalogram.
  • Breathing: Monitors placed on the stomach and chest can monitor your breathing rate and pattern. They can alert you to take deeper, cleansing breaths or slow your breathing.
  • Temperature: Sensors on the fingers, feet, or forehead can alert a person to when their temperature drops – as it often does when you’re stressed.

Treatment centers that offer biofeedback for addiction recovery may offer interactive devices that seem like computer programs or games. Sometimes they will have headbands that monitor brain activity while the patient meditates. Another advancement is wearable devices that can track everything from the person’s breathing to heart rate. If the person is experiencing a period that indicates prolonged tension, the device will alert them and encourage them to slow their breathing. This will help to restore a sense of calm.

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Who Is a Good Candidate for Biofeedback?

Biofeedback is used to treat a number of health conditions, including asthma, chronic pain, constipation, headache, high blood pressure, motion sickness, and temporomandibular joint disorder. Sometimes people who have been traditionally resistant to treatment medications or who can’t take medications for pre-existing health conditions, can find this form of treatment to be beneficial.

There are few health risks associated with biofeedback. The technique isn’t invasive or painful. However, the greatest risk is the therapy may not work. That is why it’s important to find a therapist who specializes in addiction recovery techniques. A therapist should ask about the person’s unique concerns and overall recovery plan so the therapy can be tailored to their needs.

How Effective is this Treatment for Addiction Recovery?  

According to an article published in the journal “Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback,” EEG biofeedback is an effective treatment for alcoholism and stimulant recovery, or for those who abused multiple substances. There are limited other studies related to biofeedback and addiction. However, the treatment isn’t usually recommended as the sole therapy for a person who has struggled with substance abuse. Instead, it can serve as a complement to the other therapies, including counseling.

Addiction is a brain disease that causes a person to experience chronic and relapsing cravings for drugs and/or alcohol. Through processes such as biofeedback, a sober individual can ideally learn to live a life free of substance abuse. If you struggle with stress and anxiety in the recovery period, biofeedback may be a helpful treatment.


  1. Mayo Clinic Staff Print. (2016, January 14). Overview. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  2. Sokhadze, T. M., Cannon, R. L., & Trudeau, D. L. (2008, March). EEG Biofeedback as a Treatment for Substance Use Disorders: Review, Rating of Efficacy, and Recommendations for Further Research. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from


Last updated on June 21st, 2017 at 05:33 pm

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