rTMS Reduces Craving and Alcohol Use in Patients with Alcohol Use Disorder: Results of a Randomized, Sham-Controlled Clinical Trial

Source: Journal of Clinical Medicine. 11(4) (no pagination), 2022. Article Number:

Date of Publication: February-2 2022.
Authors: Belgers M.; Van Eijndhoven P.; Markus W.; Schene A.H.; Schellekens A.

Background: Current evidence-based treatments for alcohol use disorder (AUD) are moderately effective. Studies testing repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in AUD com-monly apply a limited number of rTMS sessions with different rTMS settings, showing inconsistent effects on craving for alcohol. This study tested the efficacy of a robust rTMS
protocol on craving and alcohol use.

Methods: In a single-blind randomized controlled trial in recently detoxified patients with AUD, ten days of high-frequency rTMS over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex on top of treatment as usual (n = 14) was compared with sham rTMS (n = 16). Outcome measures were alcohol craving and use over a follow-up period of one year. Analysis was performed by means of repeated measures multivariate analysis of variance.

Results: The results showed a main group-by-time interaction effect on craving (Wilks’ LAMBDA = 0.348, F (12, 17) = 2.654, p = 0.032) and an effect of group on alcohol use (Wilk’s LAMBDA = 0.44, F (6, 23) = 4.9, p = 0.002), with lower alcohol craving and use in the group with active rTMS compared to the control group.
Differences in craving between groups were most prominent three months after treatment. At 12 months follow-up, there was no effect of rTMS on craving or abstinence.

Conclusion(s): This small-scale randomized controlled trial showed the efficacy of high-frequency rTMS over the right dlPFC diminished alcohol craving and use in recently detoxified patients with AUD during the first months after detoxification. These findings suggest that rTMS might be an effective add-on in treating patients with AUD and warrant replication in future large-scale studies.