What is addiction?

Addiction means the presence of a constant urge to use psychoactive substances or to make certain behaviors, even if they have a negative influence on health.

Substance addiction: the best known (and socially accepted) psychoactive substances are alcohol and tobacco. One uses means for two reasons: first to feel good and secondly to not feel bad. The second group is most at risk of addiction because they take alcohol or other means as self-treatment for e.g. anxiety, depression, personality disorders, ADHD.

Behavioral addictions are also receiving more attention lately, especially after gambling addiction was included in the DSM-5 in 2013. This immediately drew attention to other behavioral addictions such as game addiction, internet addiction, sex addiction, etc.

Food addiction is a separate addiction form.

The addictive product is actually a means, namely fat and sugar-rich food, because of this it does not fall within the group of pure behavioral addictions. But because fat and sugar are not psychoactive substances, food addiction also does not belong in the group of drug addiction.

However, fat and sugar-rich foods give the same physiological reaction in the 'reward areas' in the brain than psychoactive drugs in others.

The biggest problem of addiction has receded.

Up to 85% of the alcohol addicts relapse for three reasons: craving, stress, cues (stimuli that arouse the craving).

This 'urge' or 'craving' is an essential part of addiction. It is the driving force of the addiction.

Craving is the intense 'hunger' that people with an addiction struggle with when they are not able to meet the craving.

FMRI and EEG studies have shown that this 'craving-feeling' can be linked to abnormal brain activity in brain areas such as the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), nucleus accumbens (NAc), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pgACC).

How can addiction be treated with neuromodulation?

Since 'craving' is a clearly demonstrated physiological process in the brain, neuromodulation of the affected brain areas, such as the anterior cingulate cortex, can possibly affect that abnormal effect.

This makes the craving for the addictive factor (alcohol, food, tobacco, gambling, internet, sex ...) less fierce and the chance that the stopping process is easier.

A recently published study shows that in people with food addiction the intense desire to eat is reduced to 1 month after treatment with HD-tPNS. Further research and optimization of this treatment may possibly improve and prolong the effect.

In addition to treatment with neuromodulation, it is necessary to be accompanied by a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Neuromodulation will influence the physiological process of craving.

The psychologist or psychiatrist will help to find out how one got into the situation of addiction and help prevent people from falling into the addiction trap again.