Background: Neurofeedback (NF) has been described as “probably efficacious” when used in conjunction with other interventions for substance use disorders, including the most recent studies in population of individuals with opioid use disorder. Despite these promising outcomes, the seriousness of the opioid epidemic, and the high rate of relapse even with the most effective medication-assisted maintenance treatments NF continues to be an under-researched treatment modality. This article explores factors that affected the feasibility of adding Alpha/Theta Neurofeedback to treatment as usual for opioid dependence in an outpatient urban treatment center. The study strived to replicate previous research completed in Iran that found benefits of NF for opioid dependence.
Methods: Out of approximately two dozen patients eligible for Alpha/Theta NF, about 60% (n=15) agreed to participate; however, only 2 participants completed treatment. The rates of enrollment in response to active treatment were monitored.
Results: The 4 factors affecting feasibility were: 1) the time commitment required of participants, 2) ineffectiveness of standard incentives to promote participation, 3) delayed effects of training, and 4) the length and number of treatments required.
Conclusion: The findings indicate a large scale study examining the use of NF for the treatment of opioid use disorder in the United States will likely be difficult to accomplish without modification to the traditional randomized control study approach and suggests challenges to the implementation of this treatment in an outpatient setting.