Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: the next wave of research

Garland, E. L., & Howard, M. O. (2018). Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addiction science & clinical practice, vol. 13, no1, pp. 14, https://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-018-0115-3. Full text.

Abstract. Contemporary advances in addiction neuroscience have paralleled increasing interest in the ancient mental training practice of mindfulness meditation as a potential therapy for addiction. In the past decade, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been studied as a treatment for an array addictive behaviors, including drinking, smoking, opioid misuse, and use of illicit substances like cocaine and heroin.

This article reviews current research evaluating MBIs as a treatment for addiction, with a focus on findings pertaining to clinical outcomes and biobehavioral mechanisms. Studies indicate that MBIs reduce substance misuse and craving by modulating cognitive, affective, and psychophysiological processes integral to self-regulation and reward processing.

This integrative review provides the basis for manifold recommendations regarding the next wave of research needed to firmly establish the efficacy of MBIs and elucidate the mechanistic pathways by which these therapies ameliorate addiction. Issues pertaining to MBI treatment optimization and sequencing, dissemination and implementation, dose–response relationships, and research rigor and reproducibility are discussed.

Use in substance abuse treatment

Bayless, C. (2014). Using mindfulness in a harm reduction approach to substance abuse treatment: A literature review. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, (9)2, 22-26. Full text.

Abstract. Harm reduction, a modern post-2000 form of treatment for substance use behaviors, provided a public health and disease model for the of the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus in the early 1980s.

Different from the traditional choice of treatment, abstinence, harm reduction is designed to meet people “where they are at”. The traditional 12-step for substance use disorders does not allow the individual to relapse, lest it is considered the treatment has failed. Harm reduction focuses on the reduction of negative consequences of substance use and allows the substance user to accept moderate and safer use, thereby, reducing the harmful effects of the disorder.

The inclusion of mindfulness with harm reduction places the individual in the present state of awareness, the here and now, making them aware of cues that trigger the desire to use substances. This article will compare the use of harm reduction treatments combined with mindfulness techniques as an alternative treatment for substance abuse when the 12-step substance abuse program does not work for everyone.

Useful for the treatment of addictive behaviors

Spinella, M., Martino, S. & Ferri, C. (2013). Mindfulness and Addictive Behaviors. Journal of Behavioral Health,(1), 1-7. Full text.

Abstract: There has been increasing interest in mindfulness-based treatments for psychological illnesses, including substance abuse. Mindfulness involves intentionally directing attention to experiences in the present moment and observing them with a nonjudgmental attitude.

This study examined the relationship between mindfulness and various addictive behaviors (i.e. alcohol abuse, pathological gambling, sex addiction, and compulsive buying) in a community sample. A short but comprehensive composite measure of mindfulness was constructed from previous valid measures, which retained good reliability and a five-factor structure.

Two higher-order factors emerged: Attentive Acceptance (Nonjudging, Acting with Awareness) and Descriptive Observation (Describe, Observe, Nonreactivity). Inverse correlations emerged between the nonjudgmental attitude and alcohol abuse, pathological gambling, and sexual addiction, independent of demographic influences. Compulsive buying related inversely to acting with awareness.

The findings of this study support the use of mindfulness as a treatment for substance abuse and suggest the possible usefulness for the treatment of other addictive behaviors.