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Exploring the Use of rTMS in Addiction Treatment: A New Horizon

January 06, 2023

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or rTMS, is used for treating various psychiatric disorders. In fact, the idea of using magnetics in the treatment of illnesses has been around for over a century. However, it wasn't until Anthony Barker designed the first modern transcranial magnetic stimulation device in 1985 that it began to be scientifically tested. Since then, rTMS therapy has become more prevalent in hospital settings. While there are strong proponents, the views about its effectiveness vary.\

Diving into rTMS Therapy

How exactly does rTMS Therapy work? The therapy involves the use of magnetic stimulation to affect brain neurons. When the brain's magnetic field is intensified or rapidly changed through stimulation, neurons are depolarized. This leads to the release of neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in regulating brain function.

This procedure is generally benign, pain-free, and doesn't require anesthesia. A magnetic coil is placed around a patient's head, and strong magnetic pulses are delivered. The stimulation only penetrates an inch of the skull to avoid accidental impact on other areas of the brain. Most people only experience a clicking noise and a minor headache. Patients can drive home, and most report no adverse side effects although seizures may occur in approximately one out of 1,000 cases.

Applying rTMS in Addiction Treatment: A Step-by-Step Guide

While research on rTMS as a treatment for drug or alcohol addiction is limited, it has proven to be effective with nicotine dependence. When used for this purpose, a figure-eight-shaped coil stimulates the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, leading to a reduction in cravings. This approach to curbing cravings without the need of medication can be greatly beneficial to addiction treatment.

The method used for drug and alcohol addiction is similar, focusing the magnetic pulse on the same brain area to curb cravings. Some individuals have reported reduced cravings, while others haven't noticed any change. Some studies used an alternative H-shaped coil which can penetrate the brain more deeply. This device is shown to diminish cravings more than the figure-eight coil.

The Promising Future of rTMS Therapy in Addiction Treatment

Even though the use of magnetic fields in addiction treatment needs more refinement, studies involving rTMS are promising. Even slight penetration of the brain with magnetic impulses may dramatically affect those suffering from substance use. As technology evolves, we can anticipate more significant changes and continued studies may unlock some of the mysteries of addiction.

Find The Addiction Treatment You Need

If you or a loved one is looking for help with drug or alcohol addiction, reach out to The Counseling Center. Our intensive outpatient program is the right choice for many, allowing you to live at home while receiving treatment from skilled clinicians. Call 866-850-5001 or fill out our form to get started.