First responder research shows that electrical brain stimulation helps control anxiety, insomnia, and depression

Platoni K, Oakley R, Haltiwanger SG, et al. First responder research shows that electrical brain stimulation helps control anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Journal of Depression and Anxiety, 2019; 2(1): 006.

Device
Alpha-Stim®

Key Variables
Anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain

Objective

This study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of Alpha-Stim® cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) in a group of 86 first responders for the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain.

Design

The study included a nonrandomized pretest-posttest design with participants choosing to participate or not (i.e., self-selecting into participation). The independent (treatment) variable in this study was exposure to active CES. Participants were instructed to use the Alpha-Stim at a comfortable current intensity level adjustable from 100-600 microamperes for 20-60 minutes daily. At pretest (baseline) and posttest, data on outcome measures included perceived level of discomfort specific to the following indications anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain.

Primary Effectiveness Endpoint

To demonstrate that Alpha-Stim CES is effective in decreasing anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain

Secondary Outcome Measures

The second purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of monitoring Alpha-Stim CES treatment using a smartphone app. Outcome measures were anxiety, depression, insomnia, pain and stress in a sample of first responders.

Key Inclusion Criteria

  • Participants were required to give informed written and oral consent to the study.
  • Free of any major medical or mental illness

Key Exclusion Criteria

  • Excluded was a diagnosis of any other mental disorder g., substance use disorder, eating disorder, bipolar disorder, non-affective psychosis.
  • Pregnancy
  • Implantation with a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter device (ICD).

Results

Baseline Measurements

Baseline measurements were taken prior to starting the six-week study.

Data Analysis

Analysis of the results was done by measuring the differences between the pretest and posttest mean of the participants. For anxiety the pretest mean was 4.18 and the posttest was 1.93 producing a reduction in anxiety of 54% with p <.001, and Cohen effect size d=1.21 (large). Similar results were seen in insomnia with a pretest mean of 5.70 and posttest mean of 3.80 for a reduction of 33% with p<.001 (two-tailed), and effect size d=1.18 (large), depression measures were a pretest mean of 3.95 and posttest mean of 2.83 for a reduction of 28% with p <.001 (two-tailed), and effect size d=.81 (large) and the pain pretest mean was 4.62 and posttest mean of 2.58 for a reduction of 44% with p<.001, and effect size d=.72 (large).

Conclusion

These 86 police officers, sheriff’s officers, and firefighters experienced a very significant decrease in anxiety, insomnia, depression, and pain by using Alpha-Stim CES. The statistical analyses revealed highly significant values of p<.001 for anxiety, depression, insomnia, and pain. The effect size Cohen’s d values were large for all outcome measures indicating a high level of practical change from baseline to posttest, which supports the capability of Alpha-Stim CES technology in reducing anxiety, insomnia, depression and pain symptoms and the ability to monitor progress on the Alpha-Stim app. No complaints were made by participants except mild dizziness that resolved during a session when the current was adjusted down to a lower level. This study supported the hypothesis that the use of a smartphone application could be useful in helping individuals track their response to Alpha-Stim CES and in monitoring their progress over time.

Limitations

There was no control group and the study was not a randomized controlled trial.