ECT is the best treatment that medicine has for mood disorders, i.e. depression and mania. It is also used for schizophrenia — rarely — and a few other neurologic conditions. However, it is not effective in the treatment of alcohol/drug addiction.
That being said, one has a better chance of successful treatment of addiction if one does not have a severe depression. Addiction itself can cause depression, but the treatment for that type of depression is support and sobriety, not ECT or medications.
If the depression is unrelated to the use of alcohol or drugs, ECT could be helpful in getting that person into a place where he/she would be able to get the most out of addiction treatment.
Dr. Barlow, If I may further ask you to explain your last sentence, if ECT helps reset the brain, why wouldn't it help reset the brain after an opiate addiction? I understand how the synapses in the brain start over firing because they have been sedated......per say, therefore why wouldn't help reset the brain to deal with this. The lack of the ability to sleep well and the feeling of surges of electricity that you get down your spine are sometimes what allows the user to start using again just to make the brain stop over reacting. If you could please explain why this doesn't work with addiction? Thank you
Clearly addiction is a brain disorder, that - like depression - has many factors leading to its cause. We don't exactly know why ECT works for mood disorders and why it doesn't work for addiction. My best guess is that the circuits in the brain involved in addiction are not sensitive to the effects of ECT, like those circuits involved in mood disorders. The same could be said for other brain disorders like anxiety, ADHD and eating disorders, which are not responsive to ECT. Unfortunately in 2012, there are many questions that remain to be answered.
I have had 2 ECTs because of my bipolar disorder (mainly manic). I was a drug addict as well when I got the ECTs, and I only stayed clean for the duration of my stay in the hospital. The day I got out, I went and got high again. However, for a few months, I noticed my mania had subsided a bit. After my 2nd one, I had a bad time with short term memory for a couple weeks, so I refused any further treatments. I did, however, meet a man in the hospital who was court ordered to receive treatment and I saw him progress very well with them. He went from being completely out of control and sort of "on another planet" to being a lot calmer and more present with those around him. I think it does work for certain disorders, I'm not sure which, that affect certain areas of the brain, and isn't so effective on disorders affecting other areas of the brain. I'm not a doctor, but having been hospitalized 13 times in 12 months, I have seen a LOT of patients under ECT treatment and some get better, some have no reaction to it. I think it has to do with whatever your brain chemistry is.
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