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J Addict Med. 2008 Sep;2(3):165-73. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31816f8546.

Mindfulness meditation for alcohol relapse prevention: a feasibility pilot study.

Author information

1
From the Department of Family Medicine (AZ, DR, MZ, MM, MF), University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI; Department of Psychology (CC), University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; NewStart Alcohol & Drug Treatment Program (MM), Meriter Hospital, Madison, WI.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

: Meditation is a promising treatment for alcohol dependence. This 16-week prospective case series was designed to gather preliminary data about the efficacy of meditation for relapse prevention and to evaluate study methods feasibility.

METHODS:

: Nineteen adult alcohol-dependent graduates of an intensive outpatient program were enrolled. Fifteen subjects completed the 8-week meditation course supplemented by at-home meditation and "standard of care" therapy. Outcome measures included surveys and 2 stress-responsive biomarkers.

RESULTS:

: Subjects (N = 19, 38.4 standard deviation [SD] = 8.6-year-old) were abstinent for 30.9 (SD = 22.2) days at enrollment. Completers (N = 15) attended 82% of meditation course sessions and meditated on average 4.6 (SD = 1.1) days per week; they were abstinent on 94.5% (SD = 7.4) of study days, with 47% reporting complete abstinence and 47% reporting 1 or more heavy drinking days. Their severity of depression, anxiety, stress (P < 0.05), and craving (P < 0.08), documented relapse triggers, decreased, and the degree of mindfulness increased (P < 0.05). The meditation course was rated as a "very important" (8.7/10, SD = 1.8) and "useful relapse prevention tool" (8.5/10, SD = 2.1); participants reported being "very likely" to continue meditating (9.0/10, SD = 1.5). "Gaining skills to reduce stress," "coping with craving," and "good group support" were the most common qualitative comments about the course value. Compared with baseline, at 16 weeks, interleukin-6 levels decreased (N = 12, P = 0.05); cortisol levels (N = 10) were reduced but not significantly. There were no adverse events or side effects.

CONCLUSIONS:

: Meditation may be an effective adjunctive therapy for relapse prevention in alcohol dependence, worthy of investigation in a larger trial. The study methods are appropriate for such a trial.

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