Treating Trauma in Addiction with EMDR: A Pilot Study

J Psychoactive Drugs. Oct-Dec 2014;46(4):303-9. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2014.921744.


Abstract Objective: This study investigated the effects of standard eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) protocol in chronically dependent patients. We propose that reprocessing traumatic memories with EMDR would lead to measurable changes of addiction symptoms.

Method: Twelve patients with alcohol and/or drug dependency were randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions: treatment as usual (TAU) or TAU plus eight sessions of EMDR (TAU+EMDR). Measures of PTSD symptoms, addiction symptoms, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and alexithymia were included in this study.

Results: The TAU+EMDR group showed a significant reduction in PTSD symptoms but not in addiction symptoms. EMDR treatment was also associated with a significant decrease in depressive symptoms, while patients receiving TAU showed no improvement in this area. The TAU+EMDR group also showed significant changes in self-esteem and alexithymia post-treatment.

Conclusions: This study suggests that PTSD symptoms can be successfully treated with standard EMDR protocol in substance abuse patients.

Keywords: EMDR; PTSD; substance abuse; traumatic memory; treatment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Drug Users / psychology*
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Concept
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome