TMS and Alcohol Addiction – The Evidence

The NHS recommends treating alcohol misuse with counselling to get to the root of the problem. This can include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Self help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, or the AA for short
  • 12 step facilitation therapy
  • Family therapy

Detoxing can be conducted at home with medical support, but if it’s severe, it should be completed in hospital. It can take around 7 days from your last drink to stop having withdrawal symptoms, but medication such as Chlordiaepoxide (Librium) can reduce or stop the withdrawal symptoms completely. In extreme cases, vitamin supplements may also be required.

After detoxing, the amount of patients recovering from alcoholism that relapse within the first year is as high as 80%. There are a number of drugs which can help to avoid relapse. These include: Acamprosate, Naltrexone and Disulfiram. The longer a patient can remain sober, the less likely they are to relapse and research shows that those who stay sober for five years are likely to remain sober. This is why it’s vital that patients with alcoholism have as many opportunities as possible to access scientifically proven methods to help them stay well.

What is the evidence for using TMS treatment for alcohol addiction?

Over the years, there have been several studies that have demonstrated how alcohol impairs neuroplasticity – or the ability of the nerves between brain cells to build and reconnect – in the left pre-frontal cortex. As recently as 2018/19, further studies have proven the benefits of using TMS to rewire the brain in alcohol addiction. Studies prove that recently detoxified patients can use TMS to reduce their cravings, therefore reducing their likelihood of relapse.

What’s the verdict? Does TMS treat alcohol addiction?

We recommend that patients who are dependent on alcohol follow the NHS guidance for treatment in the first instance. Once detox is completed, the NHS guidance should also be followed to prevent relapse, however if this doesn’t work, you may be suitable to receive TMS treatment.

Our review of available literature indicates that a minimum of 7 days of detox from alcohol should be completed before starting any TMS treatment. This is because the sudden withdrawal of alcohol can increase the risk of seizure, which can be a side effect of TMS. The normal risk of convulsion during TMS is one in 50,000, and therefore very rare. We want to ensure your safety at all times and will do daily breathaliser tests to make sure you are safe to receive treatment.

Following treatment, your clinician can advise on aftercare programmes, like Continuous Care, or additional talking therapies that you could benefit from to maximise your result.

Find out more

As you may have experienced when trying to quit drinking yourself, the addictive cravings are very tricky to combat. With 80% of alcohol dependent patients relapsing due to the cravings, you’re not alone if you have tried to give up but been unsuccessful. Our friendly, knowledgeable team of patient advisors will talk you through TMS and the response/remission rates we have seen since offering treatment for alcohol addiction to help you make the best decision for you.


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