Targeting cravings in substance addiction with transcranial direct current stimulation: insights from a meta-analysis of sham-controlled trials

Psychiatry Res. 2023 Nov 25;331:115621. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2023.115621. Online ahead of print.


Addiction is a substantial health concern; craving-the core symptom of addiction-is strongly associated with relapse. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that reduces cravings by altering cortical excitability and connectivity in brain regions. This systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted (following the PRISMA guidelines) to evaluate the efficacy of tDCS in reducing cravings for substances. Our analysis included 43 randomized, sham-controlled trials involving 1,095 and 913 participants receiving tDCS and sham stimulation, respectively. We analyzed the changes in craving scores and found that tDCS led to a moderate reduction in cravings compared with the sham effects. This effect was particularly pronounced when bilateral stimulation was used, the anodal electrode was placed on the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, current intensities ranged from 1.5 to 2 mA, stimulation sessions lasted 20 minutes, and the electrodes size was ≥35 cm². Notably, tDCS effectively reduced cravings for opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine, and tobacco but not for alcohol or cannabis. Our findings indicate tDCS as a promising, noninvasive, and low-risk intervention for reducing cravings for opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine, and tobacco. Additional studies are warranted to refine stimulation parameters and evaluate the long-term efficacy of tDCS in managing substance cravings.

PMID:38043411 | DOI:10.1016/j.psychres.2023.115621