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Can Deep TMS Treat Addiction?

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Can-Deep TMS Treat Addiction

Addiction is a severe form of substance use disorder (SUD), a mental health condition that occurs when a person lacks the ability to control the consumption of substances like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Substance abuse wreaks havoc on an individual’s health and ability to function in daily activities, and people with SUDs continue to use even when they know it is harmful.(1)

A survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 20.4 million people over the age of 12 had an SUD in 2019. According to SAMHSA, 14.5 million people struggled with alcohol use disorders, 8.3 million struggled with illicit drug use disorders, and 2.4 million struggled with both alcohol and illicit drug use disorders.(2)

What Happens in the Brain During Addiction?

Some scientists believe that addiction may be correlated with overactivity or underactivity in a brain region that controls executive function, known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).(3) A “hypoactive,” or underperforming, DLPFC may result in stronger substance cravings and an inability to control one’s impulses.(3,4) Additionally, the left side of the DLPFC is thought to play a part in motivation to obtain rewards, and “hyperactivity,” or too much activity, in this region could contribute to addictive behaviors.(3)

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Based on these facts, physicians may try to relieve symptoms of substance abuse by influencing activity levels in certain brain regions. Research tells us that it is possible to regulate brain activity in hyperactive and hypoactive areas of the brain by using a method known as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Research also shows that TMS might be able to reduce substance cravings and therefore lead to less consumption.(3)

What Is Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a safe, non-invasive, outpatient treatment where doctors use an electromagnetic coil to deliver magnetic pulses through the scalp and into target areas in the brain. By doing so, physicians can moderate brain activity in these regions, eliciting added or reduced levels of excitement, meaning hyperactive (overactive) areas can be slowed down and hypoactive (underactive) areas can be sped up.(5)

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How Can Deep TMS Help Addiction?

Deep TMS is currently FDA approved to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), MDD with anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and studies have shown promising results that deep TMS may be effective at treating many other mental health conditions.(5)

TMS can be used to treat symptoms of substance abuse by moderating the hyperactive and/or hypoactive regions in the DLPFC correlated with substance abuse behavior. Studies on substance abuse have reported that TMS targeting the DLPFC is associated with a reduction of cravings and substance use.(3,6)

Depression is highly correlated with substance abuse, and when TMS first gained FDA approval for treating depression, researchers thought it could potentially be a helpful addition to substance abuse treatment to relieve withdrawal symptoms of post-addiction-related depression and, by doing so, help prevent relapse.(4)

Learn More About TMS for Addiction

Addiction is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can lead to significant mental and physical health risks. TMS may be able to offer relief from symptoms of substance abuse and help you break out of the cycle of addiction.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, it is important to seek professional help. To learn more about addiction treatment in NYC, contact us online or call (212) 731-2033.


1. Addiction and Substance Use Disorders. American Psychiatric Association. Published 2022. Link. Accessed July 12, 2022.

2. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Published September 2020. Link. Accessed July 12, 2022.

3. Zhang JJQ, Fong KNK, Ouyang RG, Siu AMH, Kranz GS. Effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on craving and substance consumption in patients with substance dependence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Addiction. 2019;114(12):2137-2149. Link. Accessed July 12, 2022.

4. What is TMS and can it help treat withdrawal, addiction and depression? Addiction Policy Forum. Updated December 9, 2020. Link. Accessed July 12, 2022.

5. What is TMS – Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation? Madison Ave TMS & Psychiatry. Updated September 21, 2022. Link. Accessed July 12, 2022.

6. Enokibara M, Trevizol A, Shiozawa P, Cordeiro Q. Establishing an effective TMS protocol for craving in substance addiction: Is it possible?. Am J Addict. 2016;25(1):28-30. Link. Accessed July 12, 2022.

Dr. David Woo

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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If you're in the New York City area, contact us online to check your insurance coverage and schedule your first appointment.

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