A Century of Proof: Electricity Helps Beat Alcoholism

Science determined to beat alcoholism once and for all — Results encouraging

Science has long been on a quest to find better methods for curing alcoholism.

One such method uses small electric jolts to create an aversion towards the sight, taste and smell of alcohol.

Over the past 80+ years, laboratory tests, research papers and clinical studies have proven this method an effective tool against alcoholism.

1929: Russian Physician successfully treats alcoholics with Small Electric Jolts – 20 months later 70% still fully abstinent

Back in 1929, a Russian physician by the name of Nikolai Kantorovich treated 20 patients suffering from alcoholism.

The participants were subjected to the sight, smell and taste of alcohol, and then given electric jolts.

The treatment proved dramatically successful as 70% of the participants were found completely abstinent up to 20 months after the treatment.

In the 1960s, the approach started receiving considerable attention. It was simple to use, easier to control, and offered less unpleasant consequences than other aversive methods such as chemical aversion (Begleiter, Galanter, 1983).

Research continues to confirm electric jolts effective against alcoholism

Since Kantorovich’s success in 1929 using jolts to help end alcoholism, studies have continued to emerge proving the effectiveness of this method.

Lovibond and Caddy (1970) achieved impressive results with 89% of the participants successfully responding to the treatment, and maintaining their results for up to 6 months.

The method they used was similar to that used by Kantorovich.

Incidentally, rather than develop aversion towards alcohol, the participants seemed to lose their desire to drink (Lovibond, Caddy, 1970).

Why do we need science to break free of alcoholism?

We live in a culture where drinking is an acceptable social activity. And as long as it’s under control, there’s really nothing wrong with it.

But when control slips and drinking becomes excessive, a whole chain of events is set in motion. Excessive drinking will often lead to problems at home and at work. It takes its toll on body, mind, finances and relationships.

As the social emotional problems grow so does the drinking, in a desperate attempt to get away, creating a vicious cycle that reinforces itself over and over.

Luckily, awareness of this cycle is the first step towards recovery. In fact, attention to these problems can facilitate the prospect of therapeutic success (Begleiter, Galanter, 1983).

But awareness is rarely enough to eliminate the problem.

That’s why science has been hard at work to find a definitive solution. And from the studies mentioned in this article, science seems to be getting closer to this holy grail.


Begleiter, H., & Galanter, M. (1983). Recent developments in alcoholism: An official publication of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism, the Research Society on Alcoholism, and the National Council on Alcoholism. New York: Plenum.

Blake, B. (1965, 12). The application of behaviour therapy to the treatment of alcoholism. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 3(2), 75-85. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(65)90010-0

Kissin, B., & Begleiter, H. (1977). Treatment and rehabilitation of the chronic alcoholic. New York: Plenum Press.

Lovibond, S., & Caddy, G. (1970, 12). Discriminated aversive control in the moderation of alcoholics’ drinking behavior. Behavior Therapy, 1(4), 437-444. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(70)80069-7

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