Transcranial Neurostimulation (tCNS) For Addiction Treatment

Neurostimulation is a promising new treatment for substance abuse. Learn more about it in this article. 

Neurostimulation for Addiction Treatment

Table of Contents

What is Transcranial Neurostimulation (tCNS)?

Transcranial neurostimulation (tCNS) is a neurodisorder treatment that can treat several types of disorders and conditions. Because transcranial neurostimulation is a non-invasive and pain-free process, it is becoming very popular within research circles and for the treatment of depression, substance use disorder (SUD), chronic pain, and other types of conditions.1  

EEG Evaluation

Electroencephalography (EEG) is a process that can monitor what is going on in the brain. With EEG, doctors can look at which parts of the brain are being activated and see if certain types of therapy, such as transcranial neurostimulation, are working.2  

Magnetic Pulses

Brain stimulation techniques often use magnetic pulses to deliver information to the brain. Many brain processes use electrical impulses to communicate, so the use of magnetic pulses can help to stimulate certain areas of the brain.

Generally, the timing of the magnetic impulses can attempt to change how certain areas of the brain are functioning. In fact, some research has even shown that deep brain stimulation can help in the treatment of psychological disorders and SUD. 


rTMS, also known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, is the process of sending electrical signals into the brain to alter certain brain areas and functions. This type of treatment is non-invasive and does not require the use of drugs. One used alongside other types of treatment, this neurostimulation can help to treat several different types of psychological disorders and substance abuse. 

Types of tCNS

Neurostimulation is a promising new type of treatment for several types of mental health disorders and conditions. Because this treatment is non-invasive and generally painless, it has the potential to become a promising treatment for certain types of disorders. 


Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a neurostimulation method that usually requires some sort of anesthesia. With this type of treatment, electrical currents are passed through the brain with the intention of triggering a small seizure. ECT then can cause changes in the brain and may be able to reverse symptoms of some mental health conditions.3  


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a type of neural stimulation that places electrodes on certain areas of the brain. Once these electrodes are placed on the inside of the brain, electrical impulses can work to regulate certain electrical impulses and change the brain’s chemistry.

The stimulation in the brain is controlled by a device that is like a pacemaker. A wire is connected underneath the skin and connected to the device that controls the electrodes within the brain.4  


Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is another non-invasive brain stimulation treatment that delivers electrical currents directly to the brain. This constant and low-intensity current can be used to help treat certain types of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.5  

Neurostimulation Specifically for Addiction Treatment

Addictive disorders are a major concern that impacts millions of people in the United States. Not only are addictive disorders susceptible to relapse, but they can have several negative health impacts on the individual who suffers from addiction as well as their family members.

There are several types of treatment for addiction, but it can take several months or even years for an individual to learn how to cope with this issue. For that reason, many people are turning to TMS for addiction treatment as a non-invasive way to recover. 

TMS for Addiction

Even though the studies that have used TMS for addiction and neurostimulation are still in their early stages, some scientists are hopeful that TMS can be used for addiction treatment.6 While using neurostimulation to treat nicotine addiction has been the most successful, scientists are looking into the impacts that neurostimulation on certain parts of the brain can have for other types of addiction.7

Early research and data collection have shown some positive outcomes, but larger studies will hopefully be conducted soon to show the full utilization of TMS for addiction.

Why Get TMS Therapy?

Mental health disorders can be difficult to treat. Not only is every person unique, but mental health can manifest itself in several different ways. Particularly with those who struggle with addiction, using TMS for addiction can be beneficial.

People who opt for TMS therapy have likely gone through several other types of treatment, maybe even tried medication, and have been to rehab or some type of care before. If all other methods fail, TMS is a beneficial option to try. 


For some mental health disorders, medication simply does not work. In fact, finding the right medication can be a game of trial and error and can even take months or years to find one that works.

Because it can be quite discouraging for clients, using several therapies alongside TMS treatment and neurostimulation can be an alternative to medication.

Other Therapies Not Working

Sometimes, therapy does not work the way it should. If someone has tried cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, or acceptance and commitment therapy and nothing has proven to be successful, it can be difficult to seek treatment again. For that reason, TMS for addiction can be an alternative way to target addiction treatment.

What to Expect in TMS Therapy

TMS therapy and other types of neurostimulation are generally not invasive procedures and clients will do it over several weeks. For each neurostimulation appointment, an electric coil will be wrapped around the client’s head and electromagnetic impulses will be delivered to the brain. This therapy does not require any form of anesthesia. 

How Long is the Therapy?

Each TMS treatment session lasts for about one hour. Additionally, the client will attend TMS treatment sessions for between four and six weeks. During this length of time, the client will go to treatment sessions daily up to five times each week.

How to Prepare for TMS

After a doctor has approved a client for TMS treatment or tCNS, it does not take much preparation to prepare for a treatment session. Generally, clients will work with doctors to develop the right treatment plan for them and will undergo several types of examinations to do so.

Physical Exam

The physical exam required for a TMS procedure generally requires a few lab tests and questions that will determine whether they are a candidate for TMS therapy. It will also require the client to disclose any sort of mechanical or metal devices that are within the body.

Psychiatric Evaluation

Because neurostimulation treatments are being used to help in the treatment of mental health disorders, the client will likely undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine the extent of their state of mental health. 

Who Administers TMS?

Typically, nerve stimulation therapy is conducted by a licensed medical professional. Not only will the medical professional or doctor be the one who conducts the rTMS treatment, but they will also monitor the progress and make any necessary changes to the treatment.

Who Cannot Receive TMS Therapy?

TMS therapy and other types of neurostimulation are not for everyone. Someone who has metal within their body or who is prone to seizures will likely not be a candidate for neurostimulation, transcranial magnetic stimulation, or tCNS treatment. If the client has any of the following risk factors, they will likely not be a candidate for TMS treatment.9
  • Metal implants or plates
  • Patients with a known risk of seizure
  • Tattoo with magnetic-sensitive ink
  • Stents in neck/ brain
  • Aneurysm clips
  • Shrapnel or bullet fragments near head

Benefits of TMS Therapy

TMS treatment has become exceedingly popular within the medical field. Not only does neurostimulation have promising impacts on mental health disorder treatment, but the procedure itself is non-invasive and pain-free. 

Zero Downtime

When clients are taking TMS treatment, there is no downtime and no waiting for the treatment to take effect. In fact, clients receive treatment at least five days a week and have continuous contact with their medical team.


When neurostimulation is combined with EEG, doctors can create a structural map of the brain. The structural brain map can treat a client’s condition by locating the areas of the brain that are likely impacted by certain types of mental health disorders and even SUD.10 


Neurostimulation can be an effective treatment for depression, mental disorders, and even addiction. By stimulating or inhibiting impulses in the brain, neurostimulation and tCNS therapy can make physiological changes in the body and help individuals cope with their mental health disorders. 

High-Success Rate

While neurostimulation has had more success for some types of mental health disorders than others, it is proving to be a successful treatment in various realms. For example, in a study that used TMS therapy to help treat patients with depression, the researchers found that between 30% and 60% of all patients saw improved depression symptoms.11

Particularly for those individuals who experience nicotine addiction, TMS for addiction can be used to help reduce cravings for nicotine. 


Neurostimulation is non-invasive, meaning that there are no needles, no surgery, no anesthesia, and otherwise no penetrative procedures required. The electrical stimulation is simply transmitted through an electric coil that sits on top of the head. 

No-Side Effects

Neurostimulation is generally a safe treatment. However, some people may experience some mild side effects such as headaches, tingling, fatigue, neck pain, feeling lightheaded, facial twitching, and scalp pain.

In addition, certain populations may experience more severe side effects including seizures, mania, and hearing loss. However, these are not common side effects. For this reason, TMS for addiction is a promising approach. 


No drugs or medication are required for neurostimulation. Since clients do not need to take medication, they are not to be at risk of becoming addicted to that medication. They only need to come in for their scheduled appointments. 

FDA Cleared

The Food and Drug Administration approved TMS treatment within the US in 2008. This fact means that TMS treatment is a viable option to treat certain disorders, such as major depression and addiction.12 

Covered by Most Insurance

While it may depend on the diagnosis, most insurance companies will cover at least some TMS treatment or neurostimulation. However, clients may need to attempt other types of therapies before transcranial magnetic stimulation. 

Other Conditions TMS Can Help

TMS for mental health disorders has been shown to improve several different types of mental disorders. While depression is most treated with neurostimulation and TMS treatment,13 several other mental health disorders and conditions have shown decreased symptoms as the result of neurostimulation. These other conditions that may eventually be regularly treated by TMS include:

  • TMS for chronic pain
  • TMS for autism
  • TMS for anxiety
  • TMS for PTSD
  • TMS for depression
  • TMS for OCD
  • TMS for Alzheimer’s
  • TMS for Parkinson’s
  • TMS for nicotine addiction
  • TMS for schizophrenia 

Get Neurostimulation at The PAC Program

TMS for addiction is a promising therapy that can be used to help individuals cope with their addiction symptoms. If a client is interested in pursuing neurostimulation, reach out to the professionals at The PAC Program. every individual case is different, so we offer numerous types of services to help those who struggle with addiction get their life back on track. 


If you or a loved one needs help, please call us at
(888) 744-9969 and our team at Blueprints For Recovery in Arizona will help.

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