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Addiction - Quick Facts

  • Addiction is highly correlated with the brain’s, and therefore the person’s, inability to obtain calm emotional & physical ‘head space’.
  • For children, youth, and adults who have trouble with mental and physical quieting, substances and behaviours can become very ‘attractive’, and often  irresistible mechanisms / methods to find quiet in the brain & body.
  • It is very difficult to stop an addiction cycle without addressing the brain itself as well as the environment surrounding the person with addiction.

Severe addiction is often interlaced with trauma, inability to address family discord, anxiety & depression. At Swingle Clinic we go to the core of the issue: first to the brain and second to the environment and its influence on the person. We look at the fundamental EEG (electrical) brain deregulations that drew an individual into addiction in the first place followed by the environment or circumstance that permitted the fall. Through multiple modalities, we help to quiet the brain (reducing agitation leading to craving resilience / resistance). We then co-construct a whole person path back to an addiction-free life.

Types of Addiction:

  • Substance Addictions: E.g., Alcohol, Cocaine, Heroine, Marijuana, etc.
  • Behavioural Addictions: E.g., Eating Disorders, Pornography, Sex, Compulsive Exercise, etc.
  • Combinations: Process & Content Addictions e.g., Screen Addiction, Gambling, Shopping, etc.


Alcohol and Substance Related Disorders and Addictions

For Substance-Related Disorders, please book a standard 5 point ClinicalQ intake.

About the Condition

Alcohol and substance-related disorders are a group of well-recognized conditions, which are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition – Text Revision (2023). This large group of conditions is now understood to be largely psychological, although there are important physiological aspects of substance use, substance dependence, and substance withdrawal, best managed by a physician. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and benzodiazepines have profound effects on the EEG, so please consult with your clinician about the timing of your intake assessment.

Alcohol and substance-related disorders include difficulties with controlling consumption, social difficulties, risky behaviors, managing cravings, and often, relapses to the behavior after managing to reduce or discontinue use.

Recommended Neurofeedback Treatment

There is a distinctive pattern of predisposition to addictive behaviors, which is also associated with anxiety-related disorders and sleep problems. This pattern involves excessive beta frequencies at the rear of the brain, coupled with deficiencies in the slower theta and alpha frequencies, which are important in being able to relax and process emotions. The recommended protocol, known as alpha-theta training, is highly effective in reducing the desire to drink or engage in addictive behaviors. In addition, the predisposition to perseverative and compulsive behavior at the frontal midline is often involved, and clients typically benefit from neurofeedback training to reduce these excessive fast frequencies.

Many people with addiction problems have histories of trauma, so the suppression of alpha may also be related to the blunted alpha response with eyes closed, typically referred to at the Swingle Clinic as the trauma signature. Clients typically find alpha-theta training relaxing and calming. When combined with practices such as meditation or prayer, many also report they are spiritually enlightening.

Additional Recommended Psychological Services

Many people with addictions require medical intervention to safety withdraw from alcohol and other drugs such as marijuana, opiates, and benzodiazepines.

We strongly recommend you consider starting or completing a medically managed detoxification of the above substances before your intake QEEG. If you require support, please book an intake interview, and your psychologist will assist with making the appropriate referrals.

When clients have a history of emotional trauma, additional counseling or therapy such as EMDR may be helpful to help resolve these issues and successfully achieve drinking or substance use goals. Sometimes, people with addictions have other mental health conditions, including brain injuries or seizure disorders. In these cases, we would recommend a 19 channel Normative assessment and consultation with a neurologist.

Recommended Reading

Biofeedback for the Brain

Further reading...

Burkett, V. S., Cummins, J. M., Dickson, R. M., & Skolnick, M. (2005). An open clinical trial utilizing real-time EEG operant conditioning as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of crack cocaine dependence. Journal of Neurotherapy, 9(2), 27–48.

Callaway, T.G, Bodenhamer-Davis, E. (2008). Long-term follow-up of a clinical replication of the Peniston Protocol for chemical dependency. Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(4), 243–259.

deBeus, R. J. (2007). Quantitative electroencephalography-guided versus Scott/Peniston neurofeedback with substance abuse outpatients: A pilot study. Biofeedback, 35(4), 146–151.

Fahrion, S. L., Walters, E. D., Coyne, L., & Allen, T. (1992). Alterations in EEG amplitude, personality factors and brain electrical mapping after alpha theta brainwave training: A controlled case study of an alcoholic in recovery. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 16, 547–552.

Fahrion, S. L. (1995). Human potential and personal transformation. Subtle Energies, 6, 55–88.

Goldberg, R. J., et al. (1976). Alpha conditioning as an adjunct treatment for drug dependence: Part I. International Journal of Addiction, 11, 1085–1089.

Goldberg, R. J., et al. (1977). Alpha conditioning as an adjunct treatment for drug dependence: Part II. International Journal of Addiction, 12, 195–204.

Horrell, T., El-Baz, A., Baruth, J., Tasman, A., Sokhadze, G., Stewart, C., Sokhadze, E. (2010). Neurofeedback effects on evoked and induced EEG gamma band reactivity to drug-related cues in cocaine addiction. Journal of Neurotherapy, 14(3), 195–216.

Kelly, M. J. (1997). Native Americans, neurofeedback, and substance abuse theory: Three year outcome of alpha/theta neurofeedback training in the treatment of problem drinking among Dine= (Navajo) people. Journal of Neurotherapy, 2(3), 24–60.

Lamontague, Y., Hand, I., Annable, L., et al. (1975). Physiological and psychological effects of alpha and EMG feedback training with college drug users: A pilot study. Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 20, 337–349.

Leong, S. L., Ridder, D. de, Vanneste, S., Ross, S., Sutherland, W., & Manning, P. (2017). Effect of transcranial pink noise stimulation of anterior cingulate cortex on food craving. Brain Stimulation: Basic, Translational, and Clinical Research in Neuromodulation, 10(2), 351.

Passini, F., Watson, C. G., Dehnel, L., Herder, J., & Watkins, B. (1977). Alpha wave biofeedback training therapy in alcoholics. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 33(1), 292299.

Peniston, E. G., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1989). Alpha-theta brainwave training and beta-endorphin levels in alcoholics. Alcohol: Clinical & Experimental Research, 13(2), 271279.

Peniston, E. G., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1991). Alcoholic personality and alpha-theta brainwave training. Medical Psychotherapy, 2, 37–55.

Peniston, E. G., Marrinan, D. A., Deming, W. A., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1993). EEG alpha-theta brainwave synchronization in Vietnam theater veterans with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol abuse. Advances in Medical Psychotherapy, 6, 37–50.

Saxby, E., & Peniston, E. G. (1995). Alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback training: An effective treatment for male and female alcoholics with depressive symptoms. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51(5), 685–693.

Schneider, F., Elbert, T., Heimann, H., Welker, A., Stetter, F., Mattes, R., Birbaumer, N., & Mann, K. (1993). Self-regulation of slow cortical potentials in psychiatric patients: Alcohol dependency. Biofeedback & Self-Regulation, 18, 23–32.

Scott, W., & Kaiser, D. (1998). Augmenting chemical dependency treatment with neurofeedback training. Journal of Neurotherapy, 3(1), 66.

Scott, W. C., Kaiser, D., Othmer, S., Sideroff, S. I. (2005) Effects of an EEG Biofeedback Protocol on a Mixed Substance Abusing Population. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 31(3), 455-469

Sokhadze, E., Stewart, C., Hollifield, M., Tasman, A. (2008). Event-related potential study of executive dysfunctions in a speeded reaction task in cocaine addiction. Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(4), 185–204.

Sokhadze, E., Singh, S., Stewart, C., Hollifield, M., El-Baz, A., Tasman, A. (2008). Attentional bias to drug-and stress-related pictorial cues in cocaine addiction comorbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(4), 205–225.

Sokhadze, E. M., Cannon R. L., & Trudeau D. L. (2008) EEG biofeedback as a treatment for Substance Use Disorders: review, rating of efficacy, and recommendations for further research. Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(1), 5–43.

Sokhadze, T. M., Stewart, C. M., & Hollifield, M. (2007). Integrating cognitive neuroscience and cognitive behavioral treatment with neurofeedback therapy in drug addiction comorbid with posttraumatic stress disorder: A conceptual review. Journal of Neurotherapy, 11(2), 13–44.

Sokhadze, T. M., Cannon, R. L., & Trudeau, D. L. (2008). EEG biofeedback as a treatment for substance use disorders: Review, rating of efficacy, and recommendations for further research. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, 33(1), 1–28.

Trudeau, D. L. (2008) Brainwave biofeedback for addictive disorder. Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(4), 181–183.

Trudeau, D. L. (2005). Applicability of brain wave biofeedback to substance use disorder in adolescents. Child & Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 14(1), 125136.

Trudeau, D. L. (2000). The treatment of addictive disorders by brain wave biofeedback: A review and suggestions for future research. Clinical Electroencephalography, 31(1), 1322.

Watson, C. G., Herder, J., & Passini, F. T. (1978). Alpha biofeedback therapy in alcoholics: An 18-month follow-up. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 34(3), 765–769.