Transcranial magnetic stimulation, abbreviated as TMS, is a non-invasive treatment that utilizes a device that is placed against the head to deliver pulses to areas of the brain associated with mood. This form of treatment is FDA-approved for individuals with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and migraines. TMS is perhaps best known for treating cases of treatment-resistant depression, but scientists continue to conduct research with this treatment method to determine if there are additional benefits associated with TMS. Given its effectiveness in treating mental health conditions, researchers have recently shown interest in the use of TMS for the treatment of alcohol addiction.
Alcohol Addiction Statistics
The need for new treatments for alcohol use is evident. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 25.8% of U.S. adults binge drink within a given month, and nearly 15 million Americans aged 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for alcohol addiction.
Unfortunately, data also shows that only 7.3% of adults with an alcohol addiction actually receive treatment. This is concerning, as 95,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, and alcohol is responsible for 18.5% of emergency department visits.
There are effective treatments available for alcohol use disorder, including medication, counseling, and support groups, but treatment isn’t one-size-fits-all. No single treatment is effective for everyone with an alcohol use disorder, and there is always a need for innovation and research to ensure that patients receive the best treatment available. This is where TMS comes into play.
TMS for Alcohol Addiction
TMS has been well-established as effective for treating mental health conditions like depression and OCD, but until recently, not much research was done to explore its effects on addiction. As alcohol addiction has continued to pose a threat to public health, scientists have taken interest in studying TMS for the treatment of alcohol use disorder. A brand new study, currently in the press through the journal Biological Psychiatry, explored the effects of deep, repetitive TMS in a group of patients in treatment for moderate to severe alcohol addiction. Results of the study found that TMS treatment reduced alcohol cravings and heavy drinking.
Another benefit that came to light in the study was that TMS treatment led to functional changes in the brain, which may be associated with recovery from addiction. The results of this study are meaningful because participants receiving TMS treatment were compared to individuals in a control group, and statistical analysis showed that patients who received TMS fared significantly better than those in control groups did. Furthermore, there were no side effects associated with TMS treatment, aside from temporary headaches.
The study’s results were presented at the December 2021 Brain Stimulation Conference, where researchers and leaders in the neuroscience field met to discuss emerging brain stimulation treatments. While additional research is needed to confirm the benefits of TMS for alcohol addiction, the study’s findings are promising. The high prevalence of alcohol addiction in the United States, which likely worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitates ongoing research to identify the best treatment methods for alcoholism.
Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
If you are concerned about your own alcohol use or that of a loved one, you might be wondering if it is time to seek treatment. Once alcohol abuse starts to become out of hand, a person is likely to show signs of an alcohol use disorder, which warrants treatment.
Some symptoms of an alcohol use disorder are as follows:
- Strong alcohol cravings
- Continuing to drink, even when it causes health problems
- Drinking even when it leads to relationship problems
- Consuming larger amounts of alcohol than intended
- Giving up other activities to drink
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
- Drinking in dangerous situations, such as drinking before driving
- Needing larger and larger amounts of alcohol to get the same effects
- Being unable to fulfill responsibilities at work or home because of alcohol abuse
- Spending a great deal of time drinking or recovering from drinking
Some specific behaviors that go along with the symptoms of alcohol use disorder may include missing work due to being hungover, withdrawing from friends and family in order to drink, and hiding alcohol consumption from loved ones to avoid disagreements. Someone who is addicted to alcohol may also plan to only have a few drinks, but end up drinking to the point of intoxication because they lose control over drinking.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
When a person shows two or more of the above symptoms, they meet clinical criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Reaching out for treatment is often the first step in breaking free from alcohol addiction. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe and even dangerous, so most people start with a professional detox program. After completing alcohol detox, an inpatient or outpatient rehab program can provide ongoing psychological services, such as individual and group counseling, to treat alcohol addiction. Since TMS is in the early stages of research and is not yet FDA-approved for alcohol addiction, treatment providers do not offer this modality in alcohol rehab programs, but they may in the future if research continues to demonstrate that it is safe and effective.
For those in need of behavioral health services in Southern California, Pulse TMS provides treatment to the Los Angeles community. While TMS is not yet FDA-approved for the treatment of alcohol use disorder, it is approved for treating depression, which can occur alongside alcohol addiction in some people. If you haven’t found relief from depression symptoms with usual methods like counseling and medication, TMS may be the answer. You can continue to attend therapy while receiving TMS services, and since this treatment is non-invasive and does not require anesthesia, you will be able to go about your usual activities after receiving TMS. Contact us today to learn more about our services.