If your idea of a fun weekend includes the consumption of alcoholic drinks amongst friends and family, you’re not alone. Millions of people indulge every weekend. For healthy men, 4+ drinks per day (or 14 per week) is considered “heavy” drinking. For women, 3+ drinks per day (or 7 per week) is considered “heavy” drinking.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are 140 million people with alcoholism worldwide. In the US, just over 16 million adults 18 years of age and older have an alcohol use disorder. Of those 16 million adults, only 1.5 million received treatment for their AUD. Many people become addicted because it’s in their genes, while others may use alcohol as a result of a mental illness such as depression.
Despite the success of cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychosocial interventions, and spiritually integrated treatment, alcoholics are prone to relapse. Researchers are speculating that stimulating the brain through the use of TMS therapy may curb cravings the way a non-addictive brain might. The prefrontal lobe, which is known to control impulse, may be the key to alcohol and drug addiction.
In a recent study by the Department of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Sapienza University of Rome entitled Deep TMS on alcoholics: effects on cortisolemia and dopamine pathway modulation, one group of alcoholics treated over several TMS sessions was found to have a lower mean number of alcoholic drinks/day than the group who was experienced placebo TMS.
These studies have shown overall that TMS can reduce alcohol cravings in recently detoxified patients, helping them maintain sobriety. Other studies have shown TMS can also help improve memory function in recently detoxified alcohol dependent patients as well (Heremans et al, 2013 and Qiao et a, 2016).
TMS is increasingly believed to be an effective therapy for treating substance addiction in patients, especially if it is used in combination with other forms of treatment. TMS in a noninvasive therapy that works by stimulating nerve cells in a patient’s prefrontal cortex with electromagnetic pulses. Commonly used to treat depression, it is believed that TMS is also an effective way to quell addiction.
Today, only two drugs are FDA-approved to treat the disease. While research for TMS therapy treating substance abuse is promising, it is not currently FDA approved.