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19 Articles in Volume 19, Issue #6
Arthrofibrosis: Targeting Hormones after Childbirth to Relieve Frozen Shoulder, Inflamed Joints
Can CGRP Help Clarify Why Migraine Is More Common in Women?
Case Report: Managing Chronic Pelvic Pain in Men
CGRP Monoclonal Antibodies for Chronic Migraine: Year 1 of Clinical Use
Chronic Pelvic Pain as a Form of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Correspondence: Continuing the “Pain Specialist” Dialogue
Endometriosis and its Misunderstood Etiology
Evolving Management Strategies for Osteoarthritic Pain
Gamma PEMF Therapy: A Pilot Study For Its Use in Managing Opioid Addiction
Guest Editorial: Sex Differences in Pain
How to Provide Effective Pain Management to LGBTQ Individuals
Interscalene Peripheral Nerve Stimulation for Post-Operative Chronic Shoulder Pain
New ICD-11 Codes Set to Improve Pain Care in the Primary Setting
Perspective: Could NGF Antagonists Be the Safest, Most Efficacious Class of Drug We Have to Treat Pain?
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Cognition: Is There a Genetic Link?
Targeting Nerves Provides Alternative to Opioids for Joint Arthroplasty
The Sex Question in Primary and Pain Care
What is capsaicin’s role in treating osteoarthritis?
When Pain Clinicians Have to Be the Villain: Communication Strategies to Bridge the Divide

Gamma PEMF Therapy: A Pilot Study For Its Use in Managing Opioid Addiction

Pulsed electromagnetic frequency that activates brainwaves associated with contentment may reduce common opioid withdrawal symptoms, and thus, improve addiction treatment outcomes.

A PPM online exclusive

Gamma PEMF Therapy for Opioid Addiction

In 1977, John Knowles wrote that “95% of people are born healthy and become unhealthy because of human misbehavior.”This misbehavior may include obesity, smoking, inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables, inadequate exercise and inadequate sleep. The neurochemistry of poor self-esteem includes disorders in oxytocin and dopamine, both neurochemicals altered in those addicted to opioids.

Oxytocin deficiency has been demonstrated in the following diseases: hypertension, depression, anxiety, autism, ADHD, addiction, schizophrenia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, and more.2 Oxytocin has also been associated, at least in animal, with gamma brain activity,3 which is, where simultaneous processing takes place, including reported links to memory, creativity, and contentment. Dopamine, the pleasure hormone, is particularly sought by addicts,4-6 and a lack of normal interrelation between oxytocin and dopamine appears to be the foundation for addiction.7

Taking a step back to look at brain frequency, a well-adjusted individual has spontaneous variations in EEG brain rhythms with general frequencies ranging as such:8

  • Delta—1-3 Hz deep relaxation
  • Theta—4-7 Hz relaxed creativity
  • Alpha—8-12 Hz relaxation
  • Beta—13-22 Hz learning, attention
  • High Beta—23-30 Hz anxiety
  • Gamma—31-100 Hz
  • 40 Hz may be considered “in the zone” – a state of creativity and optimal contentment.

Several years ago, the authors developed a specific pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF) device (the Shealy-Sorin Gamma PEMF) which we later discovered led to a significant increase in gamma frequency in the EEG when applied close to the head. The device intuited frequencies ranging from 5.83 to 7 times 7.83 plus two, for a final total of 56.81 Hz.

Although there are numerous frequencies used by PEMF devices, most of which are used to help manage pain (others have been shown to help with circulatory problems and depression), the authors tested two of the widely available commercial models and found that they lead only to delta frequency in the brain. Gamma PEMF, sweeping from 5.83-56.81 Hz, appears to be the only type of Gamma PEMF device available.

Figure 1. Resting (baseline) EEG shows dominant delta.

Figure 2. With the Gamma PEMF device one inch above the head, there is no Delta brainwave activity and the presence of significant gamma activity.

Herein, the authors describe an IRB-approved pilot study among a small prison population to test the use of the Gamma PEMF device on easing opioid addiction. Considering that individuals addicted to opioids are known to desire the effects of dopamine, the authors hypothesized that increased Gamma brainwaves may reduce their cravings.

Case Background and Methods

Under an IRB approved protocol, 10 inmates (9 men, 1 woman) in the state of Missouri—all diagnosed with opioid addiction—volunteered to enter our research protocol in February 2018. Half of the inmates had been sentenced by a narcotic judge to 2-year incarceration; they wore ankle monitors and underwent regular urine drug monitoring. The other 5 participants had multiple offenses. None reported being free of opioids within the past year; none were undergoing any medication-assisted or other type of treatment for their opioid addiction.

Four of the subjects were self-referred. One subject was referred from Carol Jones Drug Rehabilitation Center; 4 from the Greene County Jail; and 1 from the Chillicothe women’s prison. All ranged in age from 28 to 56.

The participants used the authors’ Gamma PEMF device for at least one hour per day on the head for a period of 12 months. To use the device, subjects were provided a baseball cap to wear during treatment; the device fit nicely around the hat’s 8-inch rim. Use required the participants to be seated or lying down, with the device plugged into a nearby wall. Subjects recorded the times that they used the device; many used it for 2 hours per day over the 12-month period.

Participants were asked to fill out initial and weekly forms on the degree of opioid cravings, nightmares and night sweats—the most commonly reported symptoms of opioid withdrawal—as well as total symptoms. A 0 to 10 Visual Analog Scale similar to those used in pain ratings were used to rank symptom occurrence. At the end of each week, participants rated each symptom on a 0 to 10 scale for the week just ended. Weekly scores were averaged in 3-month increments.

PEMF therapy may reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms. (Source: 123RF)

Results

All subjects completed the 12-month device trial. Self-reported night sweats, nightmares, and opioid cravings were all markedly decreased after 12 months of using the Gamma PEMF device. There were no reported complications or complaints. There were no differences among the male and female subjects. The frequency of nightmares (65.4% reduction from baseline) was not reduced as strikingly month by month as were subjects’ opioid cravings (98.2% reduction from baseline) and nightsweats (85% reduction from baseline), however, the 12-month reduction overall was significant. See data in Tables I-III.

Monitoring has continued since completion of the trial, which ended in February 2019, and all 10 subjects remain free of opioids. In addition, all 10 subjects have been freed from incarceration, have obtained jobs back in the workforce, and those who have children are back living with their families.

Discussion

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an estimated 21% to 29% of individuals prescribed opioid painkillers abuse them, and as many as 6% of these individuals transition to opioid addiction.9

Current treatment programs include a wide variety of behavioral approaches and medications. If a significant percentage of opioid addicts can become free of the major cravings and withdrawal symptoms (eg, nightsweats and nightmares) through the use of Gamma PEMF therapy, which is non-invasive and safe, it may significantly improve results alone or in combination with traditional opioid addiction therapy.

According to some reports,10-12 conventional drug treatment programs have a long-term success rate of only 17%. While the case study presented was only 1 year long, it incurred an initial excellent response across 100% of subjects. Participants are being monitored for an additional year since completing the pilot program. Much larger populations need to be trialed on Gamma PEM, including those being tapered from opioids and those treating other addictions.

The authors would like to acknowledge Susan Blackard, NP, for her assistance with data collection.

Last updated on: November 13, 2019
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Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy: Innovative Treatment for Diabetic Neuropathy
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