Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) and the Reduction of Stress Symptoms in a Sheriff’s Jail Security and Patrol Officer Population: A Pilot Study

Mellen, Ronald R. and Mackey, Wade. Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) and the reduction of stress symptoms in a sheriff’s jail security and patrol officer population: a pilot study. American Jails. 2008; 22(5): 32-38. 

Device: Alpha-Stim, 0.5 Hz, 50% duty cycle, 100 µA, biphasic asymmetrical rectangular waves, ear clip electrodes

This double blind study examined the ability of CES to reduce stress related symptoms in the security and patrol officer’s staff of a rural sheriff’s jail. All 22 subjects completed 20, 20 minute sessions of the Treatment Group (N=11) and Control Group (N=11) on the pre-treatment Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI) or sub-scales. This was true for the clinical scales and the global scales suggesting both groups were similar, as measured by the BSI. No changes were found between pre- and post-assessment means for the control group. However significant changes were found in the treatment group’s BSI results, suggesting a positive influence from using CES. In addition, the treatment group findings support the argument that Alpha-Stim CES provides a global brain modulation. Differences in pre/post-treatment means for the treatment group were: 1. Somatization: measures bodily complaints (P<.008), 2. Obsessive/Compulsive: repetitive thoughts and actions (P<.020), 3. Interpersonal Sensitivity: difficulties with interpersonal relationships (P<.077), 4. Depression: sad mood, loss of energy, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much (P<.015), 5. Anxiety: excessive worry, (P<.015). Hostility: feelings of anger toward others and the world (P<.077), 7. Phobia: excessive fearful reactions toward objects, insects and such (P<.177), 8. Paranoia: excessive fears that are not supported by evidence (P<.066), 9. Psychoticism: these individuals can appear unusual and emotionally distant (P<.050). The BPI also has 3 global scales for measuring stress: 1. Global Index: the most sensitive measure of stress (P<.007), 2. Positive Symptom Distress: degree of stress being reported (P<.042), and 3. Positive Symptom Total: total number of symptoms endorsed by a subject (P<.004). 20 of the participants also completed a 19-item Alcohol/Drug Use Questionnaire developed by the authors to provide demographic information on their addictions.

Attendance by the treatment group was higher than the control group: 71% for the treatment group compared to 41% for the control group. The attrition rate for the experimental group was 29% and for the control group 59%. The most common reason for not completing the program was non-compliance, e.g., failure to attend, a failed drug test or other program rule violations. One of the 4 experimental group dropouts was due to injuries related to a car accident. A second stated the treatment was helping and she wanted to continue but reported physical discomfort from the treatment.

The authors concluded that Alpha-Stim seems to provide a global modulation effect in substance abusers. The effect could be calming the subjects and allowing them to access the cortical and sub-cortical areas of the brain that they need for making better decisions. Results supported the use of CES for reducing clinical and stress symptoms in the treatment group and maintaining attendance in treatment.

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