Mindfulness Therapy Helps Prevent Drug and Alcohol Relapse

A treatment program incorporating mindfulness meditation is better over the long term than traditional approaches to preventing relapses of alcohol and drug abuse, according to a new study.

A recent national survey revealed that 20.6 million Americans over the age of 12 were classified as substance dependent or abusers. Studies are now showing mindfulness practices may help reduce the risk of relapse for those who are getting help with their substance abuse disorders.

In a recent study, researchers in Washington and New Mexico compared three interventions: A traditional relapse prevention program, a 12-step program, and an intervention that integrates mindfulness practices and relapse prevention. Twelve months later, the program that integrated mindfulness practices and relapse prevention was the most successful in sustaining a reduction in drug use and heavy drinking.

“In the mindfulness group, the practices that are learned are generalized to everything,” study author Sarah Bowen told Reuters. “It’s about paying attention to your experiences.” Bowen cautioned that not everyone did great in the mindfulness group, and the findings need to be confirmed by more studies. “I think it’s very exciting to see results like this a year out, but every study has caveats,” Bowen said. “As with all science, we need to look further and be careful of absolutes.”