• The following list provides a 'knowledge share base' working to collaborate and promote the benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy.

  • Australia is not a leader in this field but lagging behind the rest of the world in relationship to the wider applications of modern Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy using different 'pressure protocols for different conditions'

  • The information provided does not constitute a medical endorsement or recommendation. It is intended for informational purposes only, and no claims, either real or implied, are being made. 

Castle Craig Hospital


Breathing oxygen under pressure has many benefits.


It can:

  • Help repair damaged bodies – the treatment increases tissue regeneration and decreases swelling and inflammation by increasing oxygenated blood-flow to damaged tissue and generating new blood vessels;

  • Help to clear toxins, which is important during drug and alcohol detoxification;

  • Help improve decision-making and controlling emotions by improving quality and quantity of sleep;

  • Increase stem cell production by 800%, these cells regenerate damaged tissues in the pancreas, liver and brain and other areas affected by alcohol and drug abuse.


Castle Craig Hospital Trained staff members supervise conditions and the type of chamber we use is so safe that it was deregulated by an Act of Parliament in 2008.

Castle Craig is the first alcohol and drug addiction clinic in the UK to include HBOT as a complementary treatment for all patients.


Patients with Liver Damage

'We hope that HBOT will be of interest to liver damaged patients and their doctors where standard treatment options are restricted. 


The Big O2: Oxygen is proving a revolutionary therapy for Addicts

HOW many times have you been told to leave a wound alone to let the fresh air get at it?

This wonder treatment is none other than oxygen - free and all around us.

But what if it could be harnessed and used to treat a range of illnesses, from MS to drug addiction? The answer is it can. Oxygen was used to treat First World War gas victims. Now it is being pioneered for the treatment of addicts and those suffering post- traumatic stress disorder at Castle Craig Hospital, an addiction clinic in West Linton, Peeblesshire.

Hyperbaric oxygen treatment or HBOT was initially developed for diving disorders such as decompression sickness, where there are bubbles of gas in the tissues. Patients are put in a chamber where they are blasted with oxygen at ten times the normal level, removing nitrogen from the bubbles and reducing them in size until they can be reabsorbed. It also improves the transport of blood to keep oxygen-starved tissues alive.

HBOT has an anti-inflammatory effect and it also stimulates the production of stem cells and replaces any damaged ones, for example in the liver, brain or pancreas. It also helps with a range of neurological complaints such as MS, autism, cerebral palsy and mild traumatic brain injury, and because the effect is also anti-viral and anti- bacterial, it is good for the skin, healing scars and zapping acne.

At Castle Craig HBOT is used to treat addicts whose bodies have been subject to tissue damage from years of alcohol or drug misuse. While there are many chambers operated by charity for MS users, Castle Craig is the only place in the UK using HBOT to treat addiction. Patients referred by the NHS spend an hour at a time in the chamber wearing a mask, allowing oxygen to be dissolved in the bloodstream, helping white blood cells kill bacteria, reducing swelling and allowing new blood vessels to grow more rapidly in damaged tissue.

Peter McCann, chairman of Castle Craig, introduced the treatment after chancing on an article that said it may be useful for Korsakoff's syndrome, a brain damage caused by alcohol.

"Alcoholics who have drunk for many years quite often lose brain function because it damages the pre-frontal cortex and kills cells, or sends them into sleeping mode. That part of the brain is to do with making decisions, learning from experience and if that's impaired they can't reason, which is why they don't change their ways. It's a growing problem in Scotland and younger people are turning up with it," he says.

"The pre-frontal cortex can be repaired in time by exercise, stimulation of the brain, good food and good sleep. Add HBOT to that and it will accelerate the process."

Therapists at Castle Craig report a change in patients' cognitive powers straight away, while patients say they get a good night's sleep, often for the first time in years.

Such is his belief in the treatment, McCann is keen for NHS hospitals to introduce chambers for a variety of illnesses. "They would save a fortune, especially if it was used for detox, but they're not interested. It's pioneering treatment but it's not taught at medical school so it's difficult to get doctors to take notice."

Despite this, there is more interest internationally, with researchers at Edinburgh University investigating possible benefits for repairing liver damage and a groundswell on the internet of people who have had positive experiences, especially in the United States where there are hyperbaric units in hospitals. Professional athletes such as NFL players and Tiger Woods swear by it, and the Pentagon has taken it on board for mild traumatic brain injury and post- traumatic stress disorder for veterans.

Tony Smithwell, an American soldier who has served in Iraq, is at Castle Craig recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is receiving HBOT. "I had bad sleeping habits, bad memories, racing thoughts. I would lay in bed and toss and turn, but now I can sleep just fine. The HBOT also helps me think more clearly and address the issues I have one at a time instead of being scrambled."

Jonathan, a reformed drug addict, can also testify to the benefits of HBOT after 35 sessions. "I smoked cannabis for 18 years and the last three years I was using speed and smoked crack for two years. I took drugs to numb myself from the trauma I felt from being abused and I was very insecure. I ended up in a psychiatric ward. But now I have addressed the issues because I can think more clearly. After several months I am looking forward to a new, healthy life. I'm very hopeful for the future."


Castle Craig Fact File

One intriguing new avenue of research is currently underway at Castle Craig Hospital near Edinburgh, Scotland.  A prominent centre for the treatment and rehabilitation of addiction, the hospital has introduced the use of HBOT in treating severe substance abuse.  The program was introduced by Peter McCann, chairman of Castle Craig, based on research determining the benefit of HBOT in Korsakoff's Syndrome patients (typically alcoholics).  Given that severe alcoholism often leads to loss of brain function relating to cell death, use of HBOT to accelerate brain recovery, in conjunction with cognitive remediation programs, has shown remarkable benefit in treating addicts disabled by years of substance abuse. 

After patients are referred to the hospital by the National Health Service, they receive a comprehensive assessment and placement in appropriate treatment which can include detoxification, group and individual therapy, as well as education. HBOT at the hospital typically involves hourly sessions in the hyperbaric chamber in conjunction with more established treatment regimens.  Although health authorities in the NHS remain unconvinced as to the potential of HBOT in treating addiction, researchers at the University of Edinburgh are investigating the benefit of high-pressure oxygen therapy in treating alcohol-related liver damage in chronic alcoholics.  Clinicians at the hospital are also reporting positive benefits of HBOT in treating symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder although little research in the area has been published to date

While preliminary research has shown that HBOT is potentially beneficial in drug detoxification and abstinence,  the potential value of this form of treatment in dealing with the devastating consequences of long-term substance abuse is still open to question.  Given the economic burden that chronic alcoholics place on public health systems around the world, it is certainly hoped that this type of treatment is more than hot air.


How can HBOT Help People with Alcohol and Drug Addiction?

Alcohol and drug abuse can result in the build-up of aldehydes and acids in the brain. Increasing the absorption of oxygen can reduce the time these toxic substances remain in the brain. Thus detoxification of the body is speeded up. Evidence in Scotland, where HBOT is used to treat addicts in residential treatment, shows that HBOT helps to: 

  • Stimulate the appetite (many addicts suffer from eating disorders and improved eating is an important part of addiction treatment);

  • Improve sleep patterns (many addicts have not slept properly in years and many find sleeping during detox difficult); 

  • Helps damaged livers and brains (by supplying these organs with a higher dosage of oxygen, new blood vessels are built and the damage can be repaired.


Detox Therapy

Drugs and alcohol are brain depressants that push down the spring. They suppress your brain’s production of neurotransmitters like noradrenaline. When you stop using drugs or alcohol it’s like taking the weight off the spring, and your brain rebounds by producing a surge of adrenaline that causes withdrawal symptoms.


Every drug is different

Some drugs produce significant physical withdrawal (alcohol, opiates, and tranquilizers). Some drugs produce little physical withdrawal, but more emotional withdrawal (cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy). Every person’s physical withdrawal pattern is also different. You may experience little physical withdrawal. But that doesn’t mean that you’re not addicted, instead you may experience more emotional withdrawal.

Studies show that long-term substance abuse and sometimes even long term use of prescribed pain medications, can cause damage to the cells in the brain, especially in the fontal lobe where strategic thinking (decision making) takes place.  These damaged tissues and cells in the brain are not getting enough blood flow to heal properly. The damaged cells are unable to detoxify properly leaving everything functioning at a slower pace.  This is where Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy comes in.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can help open up the circulation into damaged tissues and normalize various enzyme systems that help with the detoxification process in cells throughout the body.  A metabolically healthy cell will then be able to participate in the required chemical steps to detoxify.

Studies also show that Hyperbaric Oxygen accelerates the healing process at the cellular level and encourages the bone marrow to release up to 8 times more stem cells, having a positive impact on brain healing.

PLoS One. 2012;7(6):e39049. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039049. Epub 2012 Jun 11.

Regional susceptibility to TNF-α induction of murine brain inflammation via classical IKK/NF-κB signalling

Young AM, Campbell EC, Lynch S, Dunn MH, Powis SJ, Suckling J.

Author information

  • School of Medicine, University of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland, United Kingdom.


It is becoming clear that inflammation plays a significant role in a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions. Post mortem brain samples in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, schizophrenia and most recently autism spectrum condition. All exhibit neuroglial activation and inflammatory markers within the CSF.

Many questions remain about the underlying molecular mechanisms. By adding the pro-inflammatory cytokine, TNF-α, to mouse brain tissue we demonstrated that the frontal lobes and temporal region, areas involved in higher functions such as memory and learning, are most susceptible to cytokine-induced inflammation via the NF-κB signalling pathway. We observed direct correlations between the volumetric increase and molecular expression indicating that therapeutic targets in these lobes may require different approaches when treating conditions with a central neuroinflammatory component.


Anesteziol Reanimatol. 1995 May-Jun;(3):34-9.

Hyperbaric oxygenation in the treatment of patients with drug addiction, narcotic addiction and alcoholism in the post-intoxication and abstinence periods

[Article in Russian]

Epifanova NM.


Hyperbaric oxygenation was used in the treatment of 340 patients with narcomania, toxicomania, and alcoholism in the post-intoxication and abstinence periods; 223 of these were alcoholics, 68 toxicomaniacs, and 49 opium narcomaniacs. A group of 185 patients administered drug therapy alone were controls.

Exposure to hyperbaric oxygenation had a favorable effect on the patient's status during sessions and persisted for some time after them. Patients with different premorbid symptoms and initial status experienced tranquilizing or bioenergizing effects of hyperbaric oxygen. A comparative clinical and psychopathological examination of patients in both groups showed accelerated reduction of psychoneurological and somatovegetative disorders, this bringing about an approximately twofold decrease of treatment duration and preventing the development of complications. The parameters of central hemodynamics normalized and myocardial status improved, which helped prevent the development of cardiovascular decompensation. Such a favorable time course of events appears to be due to the antihypoxic detoxifying and bioenergetic effects of hyperbaric oxygen.