Summary of Addicitons Research and Methods
Overview of neurofeedback for addicitons.
EEG NEUROTHERAPY FOR THE TREATMENT OF ALCOHOLISM AND ADDICTIONS:
Alcoholism is a disease that afflicts at least 12 million Americans.
It leads to approximately 250,000 premature deaths a year, disrupts the
lives of some 45 million family members and costs an estimated $120
billion a year in medical bills, property damage and lost time and
Over the past eight years, a major breakthrough in the treatment of
alcoholism and chemical dependency has been consistently demonstrated by
a number of researchers, including (but not limited to) Saxby and
Peniston (1995), Anderson (1994), Sonder and Sonder (1994), White
(1994), Cowan (1993), Patterson (1993), Peniston, Marrinan, Deming and
Kulkosky (1993), Schneider, Elbert, Heimann, Welker, Stetter, Mattes,
Birbaumer and Mann (1993), Byers (1992), Fahrion, Walters, Coyne and
Allen (1992), and Peniston and Kulkosky (1990, 1989).
The essence of this treatment involves a non-invasive,
non-pharmacological outpatient program combining EEG brain wave
biofeedback (called neurotherapy), highly specific imagery
of brain structures, neurotransmitters and brain wave patterns,
positive personalized visualizations, cognitive re-scripting and
intensive cognitive-behavior therapy. This program, commonly referred to
as the Peniston Protocol, is administered 3-5 days per week over a 7-12 week period for a total of 35-40 sessions.
Success Rates and Cost-Effectiveness
In sharp contrast to traditional inpatient, outpatient and 12-step treatment programs, which yield maximum
success rates of 30-40%, the long-term (3 year) abstinence rates for
severe alcoholics receiving the Peniston Protocol consistently reach 80%.
Moreover, significant positive, measurable and durable personality
changes have consistently accompanied these startling results.
Further, these dramatic results appear to be deliverable at a very
reasonable cost (e.g., $4,000 - $6,000 total), particularly in
comparison to the extremely high cost of traditional inpatient treatment
programs (e.g., $2,500 - $9,000 per week, depending on complexity of
diagnosis and whether or not detoxification is included).
Background and Rationale
As it functions, the brain produces minute electrical signals on its
surface called brain waves. Brain waves constantly change as the brain
handles the business of dealing with itself and its environment. For
over fifty years, this electroencephalographic (EEG) activity has been
used for neuroanalysis (e.g., diagnosis of brain disease or
injury). With the advent of fast computers, researchers are now able to
quantitatively analyze the frequency and amplitude of brain waves (QEEG)
to form complex topographic "maps" of the EEG's power and frequency
distribution for more accurate and effective diagnoses. They found that
abnormal behavior often corresponded to abnormal brain wave patterns and
Conclusive research indicates that certain types of abnormal brain
functioning can be corrected by learning to operantly condition the
brain's electrical activity. This conditioning is accomplished by visual
and/or audio feedback of the moment-to-moment activity of the EEG. This
visual/audio EEG feedback is used by the patient to learn to increase
or decrease the power and/or percentage of selected brain wave
frequencies This conditioning or training is called neurotherapy.
Neurotherapy is proving to be medically effective because it
facilitates positive neurochemical, personality and behavioral changes
in relatively short periods of time (weeks vs. months or even years).
Moreover, it is cost- effective because it avoids the high expenses
associated with surgery, drugs or long- term inpatient or outpatient
It is also widely accepted among researchers and clinicians that
patterns of surface EEG activity reflect the activity of deeper brain
structures and patterns of brain neurochemistry. For example, those
brain neurotransmitters, opioids, neurohormones and neuropeptides
associated with reward and internal feelings of well-being are
influenced directly (and thus fluctuate widely) according to changes in
cortical EEG patterns. Equally important, alcohol cravings and
uncontrollable alcohol ingestion are now strongly associated with both
deficiencies and/or abnormalities in certain brain neurochemicals (e.g.,
serotonin; opioid peptides including beta endorphin and enkephalin;
norepinephrine; dopamine; and GABA) and poorly developed low frequency
EEG rhythms (e.g., alpha and theta) (Blum, 1991).
Consequently, as Peniston and numerous other researchers have shown,
the normalization of alpha and theta EEG rhythms via neurotherapy
produces the same normalization of brain chemistry that is produced by
either alcohol ingestion or the external manipulation of the excitatory
and inhibitory processes that control these essential neurochemicals. In
other words, the increased feelings of reward and internal well-being
that occur from alcohol ingestion or other external influences of brain
neurochemistry are also produced by the normalization of alpha and theta
rhythms via neurotherapy.
Thus, the complex interrelationships among these variables appear to
be both at the root and the cure for severe alcohol cravings and
uncontrollable alcohol ingestion. Moreover, these interrelationships and
the normalization of the deficient factors within them via neurotherapy
certainly contribute to an understanding as to why the Peniston
Protocol produces such impressive results with this difficult clinical
Breakdown of the Peniston Protocol
Although there is some variation among clinicians, the following is a
step- by-step breakdown of the most commonly used clinical procedures
within the Peniston Protocol:
(1) Intake interview, evaluation and personality/behavioral
pre-testing (e.g., MMPI II, MCMI II, Beck Depression Inventory, Beck
Hopelessness Scale and/or Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire).
(2) Brief pre-treatment QEEG topographic brain map.
(3) Five preliminary non-EEG biofeedback sessions (e.g. temperature, EMG, and/or skin conductance).
(4) Twenty-five to thirty alpha/theta neurotherapy sessions.
(5) Brief post-treatment QEEG topographic brain map.
(6) Discharge interview, evaluation and personality/behavioral
post-testing (e.g., MMPI II, MCMI II, Beck Depression Inventory, Beck
Hopelessness Scale and/or Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire).
In addition to long-term (3 year) abstinence rates of 80%, the
Peniston Protocol has consistently produced the following very healthy
(1) Significant decreases in scales labeled schizoid,
avoidant, passive- aggressive, schizotypal, borderline, paranoid,
anxiety, somatoform, dysthymia, alcohol abuse, psychotic thinking,
depression, psychotic depression, hypochondriasis, hysteria,
schizophrenia, social introversion and psychotic delusion.
(2) Significant increases in warmth, abstract thinking, stability, conscientiousness, boldness, imaginativeness and self-control.
Thus, the Peniston Protocol consistently produces positive changes in
what many consider to be "hard wired" aspects of personality. These
dramatic personality changes enhance the patient's ability to cope
without substance abuse, significantly reducing the likelihood of
Summary and Conclusion
Alcoholism is a debilitating and expensive disease that has responded
poorly to traditional inpatient, outpatient and 12-step treatment
programs (e.g., maximum 30-40% sustained abstinence). Researchers Eugene
Peniston and Paul Kulkosky, along with many others over the past eight
years, have consistently demonstrated that severe alcoholics treated
with EEG neurotherapy, imagery/visualization and cognitive-behavior
therapy (e.g., the Peniston Protocol) show startling long-term (3 year)
abstinence rates of 80%. Moreover, these extremely positive results are
consistently accompanied by dramatic, healthy personality/behavioral
changes that clearly contribute to reductions in the likelihood of
The neurotherapeutic changes in alpha/theta EEG rhythms achieved by
these patients with the Peniston Protocol produce low, sustained levels
of the opioid peptide beta-endorphin, reflecting lower sustained levels
of arousal and stress. Moreover, the normalization of low frequency
cortical EEG rhythms (e.g., alpha & theta) apparently also produce
normalization of several other brain neurochemicals whose imbalances are
highly associated with severe alcohol cravings and uncontrolled alcohol
In addition to its extremely high success rate for this difficult
clinical population, the Peniston Protocol appears to be very
cost-effective in comparison to traditional inpatient and outpatient
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private practice in the treatment of alcohol and chemical dependency.
Presentation delivered to the Advanced Brainwave Training Institute,
Number 5, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, February, 1994.
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Fahrion, S.L., Walters, E.D., Coyne, L., & Allen, T. (1992).
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Clinical procedures and success rates for the Peniston Protocol in the
treatment of alcoholism, chemical dependency and post-traumatic stress
disorder. Invited presentation delivered to the staff of the Mastery
Program, a subsidiary of Advanced Neuroscience Corporation, King of
Prussia, Pennsylvania, October, 1993.
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