One of the most innovative addiction treatment approaches in recent years has been Castle Craig’s introduction of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to its treatment programme.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) involves breathing in oxygen through a mask while sitting in a pressurised chamber for about one hour at a time. The combination of oxygen and a pressurised chamber dramatically increases the amount of oxygen in a patient’s bloodstream and enhances the body’s natural healing capabilities.
Years of alcohol and drug abuse can result in varying levels of brain damage and cognitive impairment. Evidence suggests that HBOT may have a role in reversing damage and helping to rejuvenate a patient’s brain. This is because the spike in oxygen levels stimulates the production of new blood vessels in the brain; recent research shows that increased oxygen flow to the brain can result in the awakening of dormant cells and the creation of new ones (adult neurogenesis).
A further benefit of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is during the initial stages of treatment – especially detoxification. Alcoholics and substance abusers often have a build-up of aldehydes and acids in the brain. HBOT can reduce the time these toxic substances remain in the brain, and hence greatly aid with detoxification. As well as assisting detoxification directly, HBOT can also improve a patient’s mood, appetite and sleep patterns. 60% of Castle Craig patients surveyed reported marked improvements in their sleeping patterns and appetite; this can improve decision-making and emotional control.
The science behind HBOT is compelling. We all know that oxygen stimulates the natural rate of repair of damaged organs and tissues. Dr Harch, a leading expert on hyperbaric medicine, describes HBOT as a “biological therapy”. HBOT can aid with the regeneration of damaged tissue in the pancreas, liver, brain and other areas that may have been affected by drug or alcohol abuse.
Castle Craig is the first drug and alcohol clinic in the UK to include HBOT as a complementary treatment for all patients; the chamber is also one of the UK’s biggest (18 seats). The chamber is also comfortable and relaxing; patients can read, write or watch films on one of the two flat-panel screens inside the chamber.
Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | October 13, 2021