World-first study shows brain training could be key to breaking ice addiction

10 Oct 2019

Three months after leaving treatment, 54 per cent of participants in a brain-training study reported they had not used methamphetamine in the past month, a vast improvement from the 18 per cent observed in previous research.

The study – a world first – was conducted by researchers from Turning Point, Monash University and Deakin University, and used a method of training participants’ brains called cognitive bias modification, or ‘CBM’.

“Brain training” has become increasingly popular in recent years as a means of improving memory and thinking abilities in people being treated for substance use problems. Standard treatments rely on conscious thought processes, but recent findings in neuroscience suggest subconscious, automatic impulses play an important role in drug craving and use.

people in front of computer

CBM targets these automatic impulses and has been shown to reduce relapse following treatment for alcohol dependence.

Head of Research and Workforce Development at Turning Point Associate Professor Victoria Manning said after seeing the results of CBM with alcohol withdrawals, they wanted to examine its feasibility among people in treatment for methamphetamine withdrawal.

Participants underwent four consecutive days of training and completed follow-up assessing treatment outcomes both two weeks and three months after being discharged.

“Of the participants followed-up, 61 per cent reported no methamphetamine use during the first two weeks following discharge. 54 per cent of participants reporting no methamphetamine use in the previous month during their three-month follow-up assessment,” A/Prof Manning said.

The findings, recently published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, are encouraging and suggest CBM could also be beneficial for people seeking treatment for methamphetamine use in terms of reducing relapse.

Turning Point are currently conducting a large, randomised controlled trial to test the efficacy of this low-cost, easily-administered intervention to help improve treatment outcomes.

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Turning Point is a part of Eastern Health.  All media inquiries, please contact Chris Reid from Eastern Health Communications on (03) 9092 6771 or at chris.reid@easternhealth.org.au.