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Electrotherapy Stimulation for ADHD

You're probably aware that individuals with ADHD have unique brain wave activation profiles.  In a nutshell, the regions of the brain responsible for maintaining focus, decision-making, and planning do not work as they should.  These anomalous brain patterns make some ADHD minds sluggish and underactive, or hyperactive.   Certain therapies like neurofeedback and working memory training help correct these brain wave patterns, reduce the symptoms of ADHD, and normalize brain function. One other treatment you can try is called cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES).  This approach is more commonly used to treat chronic depression and anxiety, but some studies show that CES can also be used for ADHD.

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation involves sending a low-energy electrical charge into the brain's hypothalamus, thalamus, and reticular activating system.  The theory behind CES is that the low-energy volts will normalize the brain's electrical field, calm down the parasympathetic nervous system, and restore normal neurotransmitter communication among neurons. These electrical voltages are administered via a small handheld device for about 20 to 60 minutes a day, depending on the severity of the symptoms.  Patients can also have their CES treatments on an "as needed basis," such as during symptom flare-ups.

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation is not to be confused with cranial electrical therapy, a shock therapy used in the mid 1900s to treat severe depression.  Aside from using electricity, both approaches have very few things in common.  For one thing, CES gets its power from a single 9-volt battery and only produces around 100 microamperes to 4 miliamperes.  The small amount of power released by the device reduces risks and possible side effects.  Of course, there are certain mild side effects to the approach – a study shows that dizziness, electrode burns, and headaches are the most common adverse effects. However, these only occur for a short time and among less than 1% of patients. 

As for the positive effects, people who have tried this approach report a wide range of positive feelings, from a state of deep relaxation to a feeling of mental alertness and physical calm.  Although studies have yet to document its effects on individuals with ADHD, anecdotal evidence suggests that it can reduce some attentional and behavioral problems that come with the disorder.

CES devices can be obtained from drug stores but need a prescription from a licensed health care practitioner.  Each device costs up to $800 but some companies have a money-back guarantee if no effects are seen after 60 days. Those who have tried CES seem to experience benefits after two weeks of daily treatment.