Despite society’s depreciation of addicts, addiction is a disease, not a life choice. It’s a disease that originates in the brain. Yes, in almost all cases, the initial dose of the addictive substance is taken voluntarily — which is something that society can legitimately criticize. But once the addiction has arisen, it’s important to understand that the addict’s conscious control has been interrupted. Scientific imaging has revealed that addicted individuals display definite and specific irregularities in their brain’s activity. That has led experts to believe that in addition to using medicines to overcome the physiological effects of addiction, rehabilitation from drug addiction must also strengthen the addict’s control over his or her own mind in order for recovery to be permanent.
How do you improve someone’s control over their own mind? With EEG sensors, in a process called ‘neurofeedback’. In neurofeedback, EEG sensors measure brainwave activity during a simple interview. The brain wave patterns are analyzed along with the information given in the interview, and an expert uses both to create a training regimen that encourages brain health.
Most addicts are given exercises to perform that will increase their cognitive flexibility (their ability to come up with other options when faced with a problem), emotional control (their ability to respond to bad situations with appropriate emotions rather than by turning back to the addiction to get away), and executive function (the ability to make conscious choices rather than react instinctively or ‘as they always have’). They are often given further EEG-based exercises during which they have to consciously manipulate their brains’ waveforms in order to accomplish simple goals like maneuvering a dot into a box on the screen. This training teaches their brain to stay calm and focused in stressful situations, which alone can dramatically reduce the chances of a damaging relapse.
In addition to fighting addiction, the use of EEG sensors and a few clever games that can be played with the information they provide has been shown to help patients with:
- brain injuries
- learning disorders
- panic attacks
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- and many more diagnoses