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How hyperbaric oxygen therapy for addiction can play a role in recovery

Mental Health, Substance Use Disorder | Published: July 25th 2022, 09:45AM

Explore the ways that the healing power of oxygen can help addicts both physically and mentally during treatment


It’s estimated that nearly 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, but only 10% of them receive treatment. [1]

With such a massive amount of people in need, it’s important to gain a complete understanding of the complex disease that is addiction and explore the treatment options to know how to help yourself or those you love that are struggling.


What is addiction?

As the most severe form of a substance use disorder (SUD), addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disorder that causes people to compulsively use substances or engage in behaviors due to rewarding effects despite dangerous consequences. [2,3,4,5]

Individuals can become addicted to substances such as alcohol, opioids, cocaine, and nicotine or behaviors like gambling. [5]

As they become physically and psychologically dependent on a substance or behavior, addicts can not simply quit on their own, even if they are aware of the problem and want to stop. The disease alters brain function in such a way that it becomes extremely difficult to quit both physically and mentally. [6]


What are the risk factors of addiction?

There is no way to predict who will develop an addiction, but there are certain risk factors that can increase your likelihood such as: [5]

  • Biological factors
      • Genetics are estimated to account for 40-60% of an individual’s likelihood of developing a SUD. [7]
      • Physical issues such as variations in liver enzymes that metabolize substances.
      • Gender — men are more likely to develop a SUD than women.
  • Psychological factors
      • Personality traits like impulsivity and sensation seeking.
      • Trauma and abuse, especially early in life.
      • Mental health conditions — Roughly 20% of Americans with depression or anxiety also have a SUD. [1]
  • Environmental factors
    • Family functioning like troubled relationships or changing dynamics. 
    • Ease of accessibility to alcohol or other substances. 
    • Peer group influence, especially during teenage years.
    • Unemployment that causes pressure to succeed and provide.


What are the symptoms of addiction?

Just like any other illness, addiction is clinically diagnosed by the presence of specific symptoms.

The presence and severity of addiction is most often identified through the following symptoms as defined by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM):

  • Lack of control over use of the substance
  • Desire to limit use, but inability to do so
  • Substantial amount of time spent acquiring the substance
  • Intense cravings to use the substance
  • Lack of responsibility at work, school, or home
  • Problems with relationships 
  • Loss of interest in usual activities in favor of substance use
  • Continued substance use despite dangerous circumstances 
  • Worsening physical or psychological problems
  • Increased tolerance to the substance 
  • Physical and emotional withdrawal amid lack of the substance [7]


What are the most common types of addiction treatment? 

Although it’s a treatable condition, addiction recovery is a long-term process that looks different for each person. It requires trial and error to find the right combination of treatments that cater to various dimensions of life that the addiction has altered.

Some of the most common addiction treatment options are:

  • Inpatient or outpatient rehab
  • Detoxification under medical supervision
  • Prescription medications for:
    • Managing withdrawal symptoms
    • Reducing cravings
    • Treating co-occurring disorders 
  • Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • Different types of therapy such as:
    • Biofeedback therapy
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • Psychodynamic therapy [8]  


How can hyperbaric oxygen therapy help addicts in recovery?

As a noninvasive treatment with minimal side effects, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can be used as a part of the treatment regimen for those battling addiction.

By exposing the body to an atmosphere of 100% oxygen, HBOT can accelerate the healing process by allowing more oxygen to reach areas of the brain that were damaged by substance abuse. The extra oxygen allows the damaged brain cells to detoxify properly and heal more quickly, which often leads to patients reporting better memory and higher energy levels. 

In addition to helping with the detoxification process and accelerating overall healing, HBOT also helps to: 

  • Decrease any swelling and inflammation 
  • Heal damaged liver or pancreas 
  • Improve circulation and regenerate damaged tissues
  • Mitigate sleep issues
  • Normalize enzyme systems
  • Reduce cravings 
  • Stimulate appetite if lacking 

There have been many studies conducted on the efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in addiction treatment, with promising results published as recently as earlier this year.

A pair of studies led by Washington State University scientists found that HBOT helped people being treated for opioid addiction reduce their methadone prescription and more effectively manage pain and withdrawal symptoms. [9]

One of the Washington State studies found that patients who had “received hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of a planned methadone taper were able to maintain a significantly larger dose reduction of 4.3 mg three months after the study, as compared to 0.25 mg in participants who did not receive the therapy.” [9]


Want to learn more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy for addiction?
Please visit our research library to view studies on the topic under ‘Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Addiction.’


Ready to get the help you deserve?

At Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center, our caring, compassionate team at our medical centers in Orlando and New Smyrna Beach, Florida are ready to support you throughout your healing process as you find the addiction treatment plan that’s right for you.

“Over my 16 years of hyperbaric experience, I have treated many patients battling substance use disorder who were suffering from symptoms like behavioral changes, short term memory loss, paranoia, speech impairment, confusion, and insomnia.

Patients in the acute phases of their recovery tend to use HBOT while combating the terrible side effects of withdrawal. These patients are overseen by medical professionals while in inpatient rehab and are driven to our facility during their treatment protocols. We have worked with many rehab centers who incorporate HBOT in their initial phases of recovery as well as prolonged recovery in order to heal the brain in the areas that were damaged from the abuse.

I have treated patients of all ages who have had great results and were able to return to normal daily activities once treatment was completed. Most patients needed 40 treatments once a day Monday through Friday, but treatment protocol varies based on the chronicity of the addiction,” shares Erika Jordan, hyperbaric director and founder of Hyperbaric Healing Treatment Center.

Equipped with entertainment streaming capabilities, our monoplace hyperbaric chambers will provide you with a safe, secure, and comfortable healing environment for your hyperbaric oxygen therapy treatments. 

We are proud to treat patients for a wide variety of insurance-approved and off-label medical conditions such as addiction, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).


We hope to see you soon at HHTC!

Our team of hyperbaric specialists are ready to answer any questions you may have before your treatments! We welcome you to contact us today.



1: Addiction Center | Addiction Statistics

2: National Institute of Mental Health | Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

3: National Institute on Drug Abuse | Drug Misuse and Addiction

4: American Society of Addiction Medicine | Definition of Addiction

5: Psychology Today | What is Addiction? 

6: Cleveland Clinic | Drug Addiction

7: Addiction Center | Addiction 

8: Addiction Center | Treatment

9: Science Daily | Hyperbaric oxygen therapy shows promise for opioid addiction treatment

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