The Alpha-Stim – already used by the UK and US military to treat post-traumatic stress – uses mild electric pulses to stimulate the brain and could replace drug treatment
A device that uses mild electric shock to treat depression and anxiety is being trialled by the NHS.
Already in use by the British Army and US military for post-traumatic stress, the gadget works by stimulating the brain.
The Alpha-Stim, which is the size of a mobile phone, sends micro-currents of electricity to increase a patient’s naturally occurring “alpha waves” that are said to create a more relaxed state of mind.
The £399 devices are being given this month to 120 patients at the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for a year-long study.
The drug-free treatment, which takes around 20 minutes a day, involves two electrodes being clipped to the earlobes with wires running to the machine, giving the impression the patient is simply wearing headphones.
The hands-free device delivers a tiny, painless electrical current, measuring less than one milliampere, to the brain that is believed to have a therapeutic effect that can also help insomniacs.
Peter Caunt, of the Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, said: “We know this type of therapy works.
“The key to this study is to find out how cost-effective it can be compared to conventional treatments involving tablets and cognitive behavioural therapies.”
Psychologist Dr Lesley Parkinson, who ran a UK study of 12 patients in 2013, said the device reduced anxiety by 50%.
If the pilot gets the go-ahead from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, it could be rolled out by the NHS within two years.
Following success of Alpha-Stim in treating US war veterans for post traumatic stress, it is used by the British Armed Forces rehab centre at Headley Court, Surrey.