Alpha Stim Microcurrent & Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulator
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Q:  Alpha Stim Microcurrent & Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulator

What do you think of using AlphaStim microcurrent and cranial electrotherapy stimulator to decrease symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia?  I recently heard a psychiatrist say that it had enabled many of her patients to decrease their psychiatric meds to about half.  I understand that AlphaStim is FDA approved and that research supports its effectiveness. Laura

Dear Laura --

A colleague of mine in Eugene, a nearby town in Oregon,is very enthusiastic about it.  If you look at the research on their website for this device closely, I think you'll find that the "randomized trials" , our best standard of evidence, are a bit odd.  Some of the oldest date back to 1970.  In fact, there are really quite a few studies from back then.  It leaves one wondering why 30 years later we are not using this technique more often, if it really works.  Of course, this could be because there has been no major pharmaceutical companies sponsoring studies nor advertising results of the studies already done.  See table 5, for example, in the meta-analysis by Kirsh, which lists the many studies done and their results.

Kirsch, Daniel L. and Gilula, Marshall. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation in the treatment of anxiety disorders: statistical considerations Part 2. Practical Pain Management, 7(3):22-39, 2007.

You'll find a link to the full text of this paper from this link:   at this writing, the paper above is the second bullet. 

Thanks to my colleague, I have a couple of units to try, and currently have one patient using it.  That is the limit of my experience so far.

Dr. Phelps

Published July, 2007

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