“Mindfulness” Meditation Can Help Reduce Addiction Relapse Rates: Study

An approach to meditation called “mindfulness,” which teaches self-awareness, can be effective in preventing relapses of drug and alcohol abuse, a new study suggests. Mindfulness meditation aims to help people understand what drives cravings, and to better deal with the discomfort they create.

Researchers at the University of Washington studied 286 people who had successfully completed a substance abuse treatment program, and randomly assigned them to one of three groups: mindfulness meditation, a 12-step program, and a traditional relapse-prevention program.

They found a treatment program that incorporates mindfulness meditation was more effective in preventing relapses over the long term, compared with traditional addiction treatment approaches, according to Reuters. One year after treatment, about 9 percent of participants in the mindfulness program reported drug use, compared with 14 percent of those in a 12-step program, and 17 percent in a traditional relapse-prevention program.

About 8 percent of participants in the mindfulness program also reported heavy drinking after one year, compared with about 20 percent in the other two groups. The findings appear in JAMA Psychiatry.

Researcher Sarah Bowen noted about 11 percent of people in the United States with substance abuse problems seek treatment annually, and between 40 to 60 percent relapse. Many traditional relapse prevention programs include a 12-step program that emphasizes abstinence. Others are based on cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to confront and deal with particular situations, such as refusing alcohol and drugs.

    User Picture

    Arthur J. Marr

    August 7, 2017 at 12:36 AM

    A different interpretation of how mindfulness reduces addiction

    A foundational approach to the treatment of addiction is to increase opioid levels in the brain through natural and non-invasive means, and thus reduce cravings. Below is a link to a free little book that outlines simple cognitive procedures that can provide for the sustained elevation of opioids as well as dopamine in the brain. It is based on a rather obscure fact in affective neuroscience that mid brain opioid and dopamine systems stimulate or potentiate each other, and the resulting premise that their mutual activation through simple cognitive means will increase both these neuro-modulators and resulting affective tone, and will do so far more than if those systems were activated alone. These means are similar to mindfulness, but differ in significant ways.

    My argument and the procedure that follows (pp. 28, 39-41), is novel, short, succinct, simple and easily testable, and was written in consultation with and with the endorsement of Dr. Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, a leading authority on the neuro-psychology of addiction. The book is written in two parts, for a lay and professional audience. Since the procedure is simple and innocuous, it may be of value to the meditation community.

    (a supplementary article by the author on this topic from the International Journal of Stress Management is also linked)

    Thanks for your consideration!

    Art Marr



    User Picture

    Milton Bonura

    June 22, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    In Mindfulness meditation or just in the practice of mindfulness you MUST REMEMBER and understand. To practice mindfulness to prevent something or with the introduction of the practice is being used for a specific tool such as relapse prevention actually can sabatoge the practice before it begins. If a person finds the practice of mindfulness awareness helps them grow on whatever path they may be on, then they can find patiently continue and in reflection others may point out how well they are doing since a certain point in time. I have been clean since 2008 from day one detox in rehab thru 28 day in patient where 12 step programs were brought near campus and we could go but not required.Most of us went to all we could. After discharge it was suggest 90 meetings in 90 days. I was still not wanted back home so I did halway house with 4 guys in program called a sober house. I did 180 meetings in 60 days found a sponsor back home and when i went home i began working 12 steps of AA with a sponsor and stayed clean until July 2012 when after not attending meetings and having moved to tennessee with my wife and son I had al;so not talked to an addict in recovery. When i had had enough of my relapse into active addiction. I went to NA meeting said what had happened and have been clean again since march 3, 2014. This time I heard in step one what i had not understood before.Only because in that moment and the fact that mindfulness practice was known but not practiced by me.at that time. I purchased whevere you go, there you are audio format by John Cabbott Zen and began to listen and practice with the hope that i could be in the moment enough and aware to be able to understand practice spiritual principle in all my affairs through the 12 steps. I still am a student of mindfulness awareness and today is june 22, 2014. Somewhere between The working on step one while practicing mindfulness I began to in moments achieve enlightment long enough to begin to practice in awareness the spiritual principles that have been in The basic Text NA , Big Book AA, and some point in that moment by moment I began to recover. Understanding that clean time and recovery are not the same.

    User Picture

    Beth Burgess at Smyls

    April 3, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    It is wonderful news that Mindfulness is finally being researched more thoroughly. A very “enlightened” addictions therapist taught it to me about a decade ago, before it was used in mainstream services. It’s a great tool to use for addictions and many other mental health problems.

Leave a Comment

Please leave a comment below to contribute to the discussion. If you have a specific question, please contact a Parent Specialist, who will provide you with one-on-one help.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *