Promising Tech Seeks to Train Brain to Keep You Alcohol-Free

tech alcohol recovery
tech alcohol recovery

A weekly roundup on the latest research and news in addiction, treatment, medicine and science

By William Wagner

November 10, 2020

Can your subconscious be directed to help you steer clear of alcohol? Researchers from Turning Point (an addiction treatment and research center), Monash University and Deakin University in Australia believe so, thanks to a cutting-edge type of computerized brain training.

Other news and topics we probe this week in “From the Journals” include how sleep deprivation can open the door to cocaine abuse, practical ways for doctors to guide patients regarding marijuana use and what the drug decriminalization movement means for addiction treatment.

The computer-based cognitive bias modification (CBM) is showing promise as a tool for preventing alcohol relapses. …The brain is ‘trained’ to subconsciously respond positively to the nonalcohol-related cues and negatively to those that are alcohol-related.”

From JAMA Psychiatry:
CBM: A Tech Breakthrough in Curbing Alcohol Withdrawal?

We’re living in the age of technology, so it should come as no surprise that the computer-based cognitive bias modification (CBM) is showing promise as a tool for preventing alcohol relapses, or slips. CBM is rooted in priming the subconscious to tamp down triggers that might lead to alcohol cravings, such as certain sights or social environments. The process is initiated by uploading pictures onto a smartphone or computer that are alcohol-related (e.g., a favorite beer brand) and nonalcohol-related (a healthy activity you enjoy, like bike riding). The brain is then “trained” to subconsciously respond positively to the nonalcohol-related cues and negatively to those that are alcohol-related.

Researchers deem a recently conducted initial CBM trial to be a success. “This trial shows that, when delivered during withdrawal, CBM can prevent relapse during the highly vulnerable [treatment center] postdischarge phase, as patients transition from a protective inpatient environment to the community where they are bombarded with visual, auditory, and olfactory alcohol cues that trigger craving,” they write in JAMA Psychiatry.

From eNeuro:
The Link between Sleep Deprivation and Cocaine Abuse

Getting enough sleep is important for a number of reasons. (Ever try to muscle through an 8 a.m. work meeting on a Monday after sleeping only a couple hours the night before?) The need for sleep is no different when it comes to warding off addiction, specifically to cocaine, according to a new study. Academics Theresa E. Bjorness and Robert W. Greene report their findings in an article published this month in eNeuro, a journal from the Society for Neuroscience. Their study shows how sleep deprivation preys on the brain and “enhances the rewarding properties of cocaine, a drug with high abuse potential.” Their work also suggests that certain therapeutics might “mitigate” the risk factor of sleep deprivation.

From Annals of Internal Medicine:
A Cannabis Guide for Doctors

As marijuana use becomes increasingly widespread, due in part to legislation that has made it legal in a number of states, doctors are left with the task of sorting out the ramifications. An article in Annals of Internal Medicine, “Care of the Patient Using Cannabis,” provides common sense advice for physicians on how to answer the array of questions that might come their way regarding weed use, from the medical to the legal to those involving addiction treatment options.

From Vogue:
2020: The Year of Decriminalization

When even Vogue gets in on covering drug decriminalization, you know the times they are a-changin’ and the topic has gone mainstream. The fashion magazine published a November article titled “Why 2020 Is a Banner Year for Drug Decriminalization—And What It Means for Public Health.” already has broached the issue as it relates to marijuana in a growing number of states and possession of Schedule I-IV drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, in Oregon. The Vogue piece posits that the spate of decriminalization legislation signals an era emphasizing “a more public-health-focused approach” to transgressions involving drugs.

Photo: Mimi Thian