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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as a Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Know the risks and potential benefits of clinical studies and talk to your health care provider before participating. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT03114423
Recruitment Status : Recruiting
First Posted : April 14, 2017
Last Update Posted : August 5, 2019
Medical University of Graz
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Center of Integrative Addiction Research, Austria

Brief Summary:
The purpose of this clinical study is to examine the established, therapeutic EMDR intervention for patients with substance use disorders (SUD). The EMDR method is an integrative and structured therapeutic method which assumes that memories which have been dysfunctionally stored can lead to harmful behavior. The EMDR protocol used for this clinical trials has been specifically developed for patients with SUD - the results should be compared with traditional therapy. For the assessment of the EMDR treatment some questionnaires are given at several times.

Condition or disease Intervention/treatment Phase
Psychotherapy Substance Use Disorders Other: EMDR-Therapy Other: Sham Intervention Not Applicable

Detailed Description:

Substance use disorders (SUD) have been prominently described on a neuronal level as a chronic and relapsing brain disorder, which is associated with changes in emotion, motivation and cognition. Furthermore on a behavioral level, SUD have been found to be linked to an increased amount of attachment and personality pathology. More in general, SUD treatment has been demonstrated to be a complex phenomenon, with high relapse rates of 30-50% after (successful) treatment.

As emotion regulation is associated with a vast amount of parameters of mental health and psychological well-being such as more satisfied employment, healthier relationships, better academic performance, and physical health, the long-term abuse of drugs on the other hand plays a detrimental role in patients' emotions and mind-sets. Research suggests that individuals who cannot regulate their emotions in an adequate way in everyday life, experience more mental turbulences or confusions. In turn this deficit might lead to substance abuse as one kind of dysfunctional method to regulate inner tensions.

Specifically, an increased amount of impulsivity has been named as being predictive for addictive diseases. Accordingly, impulsivity was observed as being linked to a poorer SUD treatment outcome, especially by promoting relapse, as the emotion regulation is hindered and damaged in SUD patients. Thus the increase of capacities to moderate emotional strain becomes an important factor for the treatment of SUD. Accordingly, many SUD treatment approaches have developed specific techniques in order to address the deficient emotion regulation system. Furthermore a history of traumatic experiences may be essential for the therapeutic work, because individuals with SUD often present a history of trauma with comorbid rates of up to 75%. Consequentely, various findings suggest that traumatic experiences represent a high risk factor for the development of SUD.

The method of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative and well structured psychotherapeutic treatment which has received approval as an efficacious evidence-based approach for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR, as a psychotherapeutic technique, accelerates the accessing and reprocessing of traumatic materials and supports the brain to release the nervous system from these traumatic experiences by means of normal handling of emotional information. Due to the fact that up to 40% of individuals with PTSD turn to substance abuse in their lifetime, EMDR is effective in the treatment of SUD especially in case of unsolved traumata, which are keeping up the vicious circle of SUD. Furthermore several studies suggest that EMDR is effective in addiction treatment by significantly reducing substance craving and thus also the rate of relapse, extending consecutive sobriety, as well as more than twice as many graduates in EMDR integrated programs. However, the evidence of the efficacy and effectiveness of EMDR on addiction treatment is still limited, because many findings are preliminary as being narratively or just case-study based or paying less attention to the role of emotions. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to further explore and determine the effectiveness of EMDR for the regulation of emotional processes in long-term addiction treatment.

This study is conceptualized as a randomized controlled trial with two groups: EMDR + TAU vs. TAU + sham intervention (TAU: Treatment As Usual; the sham intervention is a cognitive training). The groups are compared pre-treatment, post-treatment, and there are two follow-up points of assessment: one month after post-treatment and three months after post-treatment. There will be a total sample of 60 clinical SUD male participants, which will be investigated during their in-patient stay at a therapeutic community center (after an initial phase of acclimatization of six weeks). One half of the sample: 30 participants will receive EMDR + TAU (experimental group; EG), the other half receives TAU + sham intervention (control group; CG).

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Study Type : Interventional  (Clinical Trial)
Estimated Enrollment : 60 participants
Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: None (Open Label)
Primary Purpose: Treatment
Official Title: The Efficiency of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Actual Study Start Date : April 7, 2017
Estimated Primary Completion Date : September 2020
Estimated Study Completion Date : July 2021

Arm Intervention/treatment
Experimental: Treatment As Usual + Treatment with EMDR Other: EMDR-Therapy
The EMDR-protocol from Hase (2008) was used

Sham Comparator: Treatment As Usual + Cognitive Training Other: Sham Intervention
For the training the COGPACK-program from Marker (2008) was used

Primary Outcome Measures :
  1. Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) [ Time Frame: Change of baseline values in ERQ after three treatments; follow-up_1 four weeks and follow-up_2 12 weeks after treatment. ]
    Emotion regulation is captured via 10 items on a 7-pint rating scale.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years to 60 Years   (Adult)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   Male
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • male
  • SUD diagnosis
  • age between 18 and 60 years
  • patient must be stationary for at least six weeks
  • patient must be full contractual capability

Exclusion Criteria:

  • psychotic episode
  • comorbid severe dissociative symptoms
  • comorbid severe personality disorders
  • organic conditional seizure disorders, and somatic disorders (e.g., severe cardiac arrhythmias).

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT03114423

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Contact: Rene Pilz, MSc MBA 004331638581479

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Grüner Kreis, Verein zur Rehabilitation und Integration suchtkranker Menschen Recruiting
Johnsdorf, Styria, Austria, 8350
Contact: Human-Friedrich Unterrainer, PD DDr.    0043 699 18195 990   
Sponsors and Collaborators
Center of Integrative Addiction Research, Austria
Medical University of Graz
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Principal Investigator: Human-Friedrich Unterrainer, PD DDr. Center of Integrative Addiction Research, Austria
Abel, N. J., & O'Brien, J. M. (2010). EMDR Treatment of Comorbid PTSD and Alcohol Dependence: A Case Example. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 4(2), 50-59.
Abler, B., & Kessler, H. (2009). Emotion Regulation Questionnaire - Eine Deutschsprachige Fassung des ERQ von Gross und John. Diagnostica, 55(3), 144-152.
Brown, S. H., Gilman, S. G., Goodman, E. G., Adler-Tapia, R., & Freng, S. (2015). Integrated Trauma Treatment in Drug Court: Combining EMDR Therapy and Seeking Safety. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 9(3), 123-136.
Flores, J. P., 2004. Addiction as an Attachment Disorder. Maryland: Jason Aronson Inc. Publishers. Franke, G. H. (2000). Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI). Göttingen: Beltz.
Hase, M., Schallmayer, S., & Sack, M. (2008). EMDR Reprocessing of the Addiction Memory: Pretreatment, Posttreatment, and 1-Month Follow-Up. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(3), 170-179.
Lee, C. W., Taylor, G., & Drummond, P. D. (2006). The active ingredient in EMDR: Is it traditional exposure or dual focus of attention? Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 13(2), 97-107.
Meysami-Bonab, S., Abolghasemi, A., Sheikhian, M., Barahmand, U., & Rasooliazad, M. (2012). The Effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy on the Emotion Regulation and Emotion Recognition of Addicted Individuals. Zahedan Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 14(10), 33-37.
Parker, J. D. A., Taylor, R. N., Eastabrook, J. M., Schell, S. L., & Wood, L. M. (2008). Problem gambling in adolescence: Relationships with internet misuse, gaming abuse and emotional intelligence. Personality and Individual Differences, 45(2), 174-180.
Schulz, H., Lang, K., Nübling, R., & Koch, U. (2003). Psychometrische Überprüfung einer Kurzform des Fragebogens zur Psychotherapiemotivation - FPTM-23. Diagnostica, 49(2), 83-93.
Solomon, R., & Shapiro, F. (2008). EMDR and the adaptive information processing model: Potential mechanisms of change. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 2(4), 315-325.
Trinidad, D. R., Unger, J. B., Chou, C. P., & Anderson Johnson, C. (2004). The protective association of emotional intelligence with psychosocial smoking risk factors for adolescents. Personality and Individual Differences, 36(4), 945-954.

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Responsible Party: Center of Integrative Addiction Research, Austria Identifier: NCT03114423    
Other Study ID Numbers: EMDR_1
First Posted: April 14, 2017    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: August 5, 2019
Last Verified: August 2019
Individual Participant Data (IPD) Sharing Statement:
Plan to Share IPD: No

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Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Drug Product: No
Studies a U.S. FDA-regulated Device Product: No
Keywords provided by Center of Integrative Addiction Research, Austria:
Substance Use Disorders
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Substance-Related Disorders
Pathologic Processes
Chemically-Induced Disorders
Mental Disorders