Neurocognitive Empowerment for Addiction Treatment (NEAT): study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

Trials. 2021 May 7;22(1):330. doi: 10.1186/s13063-021-05268-8.


Background: Neurocognitive deficits (NCDs) and associated meta-cognition difficulties associated with chronic substance use often delay the learning and change process necessary for addiction recovery and relapse prevention. However, very few cognitive remediation programs have been developed to target NCDs and meta-cognition for substance users. The study described herein aims to investigate the efficacy of a multi-component neurocognitive rehabilitation and awareness program termed "Neurocognitive Empowerment for Addiction Treatment" (NEAT). NEAT is a fully manualized, cartoon-based intervention involving psychoeducation, cognitive practice, and compensatory strategies relevant across 10 major cognitive domains, including aspects of attention, memory, executive functions, and decision-making.

Method/design: In a single-blind randomized controlled trial (RCT), 80 female opioid and/or methamphetamine users will be recruited from an addiction recovery program providing an alternative to incarceration for women with substance use-related offenses. Eight groups of 9-12 participants will be randomized into NEAT or treatment-as-usual (TAU). NEAT involves 14 90-min sessions, delivered twice weekly. The primary outcome is change in self-reported drug craving from before to after intervention using Obsessive Compulsive Drug Use Scale. Secondary and exploratory outcomes include additional psychological, neurocognitive, and structural and functional neuroimaging measures. Clinical measures will be performed at five time points (pre- and post-intervention, 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up); neuroimaging measures will be completed at pre- and post-intervention.

Discussion: The present RCT is the first study to examine the efficacy of an adjunctive neurocognitive rehabilitation and awareness program for addiction. Results from this study will provide initial information concerning potential clinical efficacy of the treatment, as well as delineate neural mechanisms potentially targeted by this novel intervention.

Trial registration: NCT03922646 . Registered on 22 April 2019.

Keywords: Addiction; Awareness; Diversion program; Meta-cognition; Methamphetamine; Neurocognitive deficits; Opioid; Rehabilitation; Substance use disorder; Women.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive* / diagnosis
  • Behavior, Addictive* / therapy
  • Cognitive Remediation*
  • Executive Function
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data