For about 20 minutes to an hour every other day, about 100 Dayton police officers connect wet-clip electrodes from cell-phone-sized devices to their ear lobes, sending a gentle electrical signal through their brains.
The hoped-for results: Less stress, better sleep — and a better life.
For almost a month, Dayton police officers have been part of a study examining the use of the devices meant to ease stress among first-responders, a Texas company announced with the city.
About 100 officers are halfway through the six-week study. Each officer uses an “Alpha-Stim device,” usually at home.
The maker of Alpha-Stim — Electromedical Products International (EPI), based in Mineral Wells, Texas — says they use “cranial electrotherapy stimulation and microcurrent electrical therapy to deliver the only patented waveform on the market which is clinically proven to work in 9 out of 10 people who use it, even when other therapies failed.”
Kathy Platoni, a retired U.S. Army colonel who works as a clinical psychologist for the Dayton police department and other regional departments, said she has used Alpha-Stim in her private practice for 28 years.
She and Tracey Kirsch, EPI president, brought the device to Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl’s attention.
“It has been tremendously helpful across the board,” Platoni said. She called it the “gold standard” for the treatment of PTSD — post traumatic stress disorder -- as an adjunct to traditional therapies.
“And I don’t get paid to say that,” she added.
The 37-year-old company conducted a similar six-week study with a smaller police department in Texas. Kirsch called those results “encouraging.”
“It’s always reassuring to see good results coming from the people who use it,” Kirsch said Tuesday. “The people who really need it are first-responders.”
Asked how it works, Kirsch said the AA-battery-powered devices and their signals are electrical — like our brains.
“Your brain is electrical,” she said. “We believe it’s the physics in the body that’s controlling the chemistry.”
She said electrical signals “normalize” brain function, harnessing electricity to help calm the brain.
“We’re sending a signal,” she said. “It’s the wave form in an electrical stiumlator. It’s like an ingredient in a drug. That’s what makes it effective.”
The result for most people, according to EPI: Stress reduction, an easing of insomnia and depression, with some pain control applications to boot.
“When you start normalizing the system, your body returns to normal, and you get improvement,” Kirsch said.
Volunteers report on their mood and sleep, the company said.
Only available by prescription, the Alpha-Stim device is “a non-invasive, (Federal Drug Administration-) cleared prescription medical device that delivers safe and effective non-drug relief of anxiety, insomnia and depression,” the company said.
Officers participating in the study get to keep the $800 device at no cost, EPI said.
The company points to a national study found that found “four out of eight officers involved in on-the-job accidents and injuries were impaired because of fatigue.”
A new Android app will be tested by the participants in the Dayton study, EPI also said.
After the study, EPI principals intend to write up the results and “try to spread the word among other police departments,” Kirsch said.