tms for addiction

This article will provide information and reassurances about the effectiveness and safety of using TMS therapy as a treatment for addiction, addressing their common concerns and questions.


TMS therapy is quickly becoming a viable, modern treatment for addiction. For those who are struggling with addiction, it is important to explore innovative approaches to addiction treatment.

Addiction and its impact

Addiction not only hurts the individual but also their friends and family. Addiction has a far-reaching impact that can include psychological, emotional, financial, and physical detriments. Many people who struggle with long-term addiction find it challenging to complete a recovery program successfully and avoid relapse because long-term exposure to drug and alcohol abuse changes the size, shape, and function of different parts of the brain.

With these changes, it can seem impossible for traditional addiction treatment methods to have a lasting impact especially when someone in recovery is triggered or they don’t have the right coping skills.

Addiction is categorized as a mental health disorder. Whether you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it is imperative that you find the right type of treatment for your circumstances.

TMS for addiction

TMS therapy for addiction is a modern form of treatment that is non-invasive, an outpatient procedure, and something that has the potential to improve recovery outcomes. 

TMS treatment for addiction uses a patented coil that gets placed on the head. 

The coil then sends magnetic impulses deep into the brain. When you work with a professional TMS facility, they can move the magnetic impulses around to find the areas of your brain that have been affected by addiction and make improvements. Where other treatments might try to retrain your thinking without retraining your brain, TMS for addiction gets at the core of the problem.

addiction concept

In some cases, parts of the brain aren’t receiving the right level of blood flow or the correct electrical signals. But magnetic pulses with TMS can encourage blood flow to the area or restore otherwise pre-addictive function.

This is a non-invasive procedure, one which is completely outpatient, with no need for things like anesthesia. This means you can easily fit short sessions, no more than 30 minutes per day, into several days per week without interfering with your daily schedule or necessitating help from anyone else.

There is next to nothing you have to do to prepare for these sessions and side effects are few, if any.

Current Studies

  • A recent review confirmed that TMS therapy could be used for addiction, anxiety, depression, OCD, trauma, and other disorders. 
  • Current studies have found that TMS sessions can offer benefits within the first few weeks of regular treatment. 
  • Meta-analyses continue to review the effectiveness and have found that TMS can help with substance abuse disorders, especially when used in conjunction with other formal treatments.
  • Other extensive studies have found that some people benefit from short-term TMS therapy for addiction and others might use it as a regular form of treatment every few years or so to help prevent relapse. In either case, there are few side effects and no significant health concerns that would prevent someone from turning to this form of treatment regularly.

Why is TMS therapy for addiction better than traditional therapy?

A great deal of progress has been made in terms of the available treatments for addiction, as well as the modernization of theory. Whereas in the past it was believed that addiction resulted from some character flaw or moral failing, we now recognize it as a mental health disorder. 

However, despite significant progress in terms of understanding the way addiction affects the brain and the body, therapeutic advances for certain substance abuse disorders remain relatively dated. In fact, relapse rates indicate that even with modern therapeutic advances, individuals are still at high risk once they develop an initial addiction.

Common concerns about TMS treatment for addiction

However, TMS is gaining support as an effective and safe form of treatment for addiction, particularly for cocaine addiction.

  • Studies have found that TMS can provide clinically significant improvement among individuals struggling with addiction.

Literature reviews have concluded that out of 19 studies involving the use of TMS for addiction, the majority concluded that TMS could effectively change the prefrontal cortex and help:

  • Change cue-induced cravings
  • Improve dopamine and glutamate function in the brain
  • Modulate neural activity
  • Mediate response inhibition
  • Control selective attention
  • And decrease cocaine and nicotine use
concerns about treatment for addiction

– Safety and side effects

As mentioned, TMS is a very safe process that does not require any type of invasive procedure or anesthesia. Side effects are limited, usually things like tingling or discomfort on the scalp where the magnetic pulses were sent, a side effect that often goes away after the first few sessions.

– Duration and intensity of treatment

Sessions are much shorter compared to other forms of therapy, averaging 20 minutes. The treatment is so safe that it is something you can do every day of the week or just a few days of the week, for several weeks or months until you feel a change.

The recommended duration and intensity of treatment for your situation is something that you should speak to a mental health or addiction specialist about.

– Cost and accessibility

As a newer form of treatment it is not necessarily accessible at every addiction treatment center. More likely you will need to go to a facility that specializes in TMS addiction treatment to get the right care.

Costs may or may not be covered by your insurance provider, but this is something you can review with your care specialists.

Considerations for TMS therapy for addiction

If you or someone close to you is struggling with addiction, you should strongly consider reaching out to a mental health professional about the potential for TMS addiction treatment. It will very likely not be the extent of your treatment but rather, a complementary therapy to things like detox, psychotherapy, and medication.

Recovery is a long and complex journey, one that is highly individualized. When you work with an addiction or mental health professional, you can receive personalized recommendations based on things like:

  • What substances you have used
  • How long you have had an addiction
  • Whether you have tried (successfully or not) rehab in the past
  • Your mental health
  • Your physical health
  • Family history of mental health or addiction

Like most things there remains a great opportunity for further research into TMS for addiction but at present it may very well be a great way to improve the structural damage done to your brain by way of addiction and, as a result, help expedite the recovery process.

Summing Up

We have made significant progress in terms of understanding the impact addiction has on the brain, and recognizing it as a mental health disorder. However, modern addiction therapy falls short. 

Thankfully, there is great potential for TMS treatment for addiction, with potentially improved outcomes. It is important to consult with a healthcare provider or addiction specialist before starting TMS for addiction.