Decrease Alcohol Intake and Related Consequences in Teens with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Mindfulness also helps people learn to relate to discomfort differently. When an uncomfortable feeling like a craving or anxiety arises, people . . . are able to recognize their discomfort, and observe it with presence and compassion, instead of automatically reaching for a drug to make it go away.” – Sarah Bowen
Alcohol abuse often develops during adolescence and especially at college. Four out of five college students drink alcohol and about half of those consume alcohol through binge drinking. About 25% of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem. This drinking has widespread consequence for not only the students but also the college communities, and families. More than 690,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. More than 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. 599,000 students receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol. Significantly, 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries and between 1.2% and 1.5% of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.
These facts are sobering and clearly highlight the need to explore methods to control excessive alcohol intake. Students often use protective behavioral strategies to increase self-control while drinking and help reduce negative alcohol-related consequences, these include adding extra ice to the drink, avoiding taking shots, or trying to out-drink companions. These strategies, when employed appear to be successful in helping to control drinking and its consequences. Another potential method to control alcohol intake and its consequences is mindfulness as it has been shown to assist in the control of alcohol intake and in recovery from alcohol addiction .
So, it would make sense to further explore the relationship of mindfulness and protective behavioral strategies on alcohol intake and its negative consequences in college students. In today’s Research News article “Trait mindfulness and protective strategies for alcohol use: Implications for college student drinking.” (See summary below), Brett and colleagues recruited male and female college students who we 18 years of age or older and reported recent alcohol use. The students completed on-line measurements for mindfulness, alcohol use, protective behavioral strategies, and alcohol related consequences.
The researchers found that higher levels of mindfulness were associated with higher levels of protective behavioral strategies which, in turn, were associated with lower levels of alcohol intake by the students. High levels of mindfulness were also associated with higher levels of protective behavioral strategies which, in turn, were associated with lower levels of alcohol related consequences, with a small but significant negative direct relationship of mindfulness on alcohol related consequences. They also found that the relationship between protective behavioral strategies and lower alcohol related consequences was greatest in students with low levels of mindfulness.
These results suggest that mindfulness is primarily associated with lower alcohol intake and lower alcohol related consequences indirectly by promoting protective behavioral strategies. So mindful students were more likely to engage in strategies such as adding extra ice to the drink, avoiding taking shots, or trying to out-drink companions and this, in turn, produced lower level of negative consequences produced by the alcohol intake.
It should be kept in mind that these results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. It remains for future research to manipulate mindfulness and determine if protective behavioral strategies are increased and negative alcohol related consequences and alcohol intake are reduced. Prior research, however, has shown that mindfulness training reduces alcohol consumption. This, taken together with the current results suggest that mindfulness may be responsible for eliciting engagement in protective strategies dampening alcohol intake and the negative consequences of excessive intake.
So, decrease alcohol intake and related consequences in teens with mindfulness.
“teaching teens about the brain and how mindfulness affects it can help create an understanding and desire to practice. Mindfulness also helps with impulse control, a concept with which many teenagers struggle.” – Courtney Howard
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Brett EI, Leffingwell TR, Leavens EL. Trait mindfulness and protective strategies for alcohol use: Implications for college student drinking. Addict Behav. 2017 Apr 8;73:16-21. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.04.011
- The current study examined PBS and mindfulness as they relate to alcohol outcomes.
- PBS mediated the relationship between mindfulness and alcohol outcomes.
- Mindfulness moderated the relationship between PBS use and alcohol consequences.
- Interventions targeting those low in mindfulness may be effective in reducing consequences.
The use of Protective Behavioral Strategies (PBS) has been strongly linked with decreased experience of alcohol-related consequences, making them a potential target for intervention. Additionally, mindfulness is associated with decreased experience of alcohol-related consequences. The purpose of the current study was to evaluate a model of PBS as a mediator of the effect of mindfulness on alcohol-related consequences. Additionally, mindfulness as a moderator of the relationship between PBS and alcohol use and consequences was examined.
College students (N = 239) at a large South Central university completed self-report measures of demographics, alcohol use and consequences, use of PBS, and trait mindfulness.
Results indicated that both higher levels of mindfulness and using more PBS predicted decreased alcohol-related consequences and consumption, with PBS mediating both relationships (p < 0.01). Those with higher levels of mindfulness were more likely to use PBS, with individuals using more PBS experiencing fewer alcohol-related consequences and consuming fewer drinks per week. Mindfulness moderated the relationship between PBS and consequences, with a significantly stronger negative relationship for those with lower levels of mindfulness.
Individuals who are higher in trait mindfulness are more likely to use PBS, which leads to a decrease in the experience of alcohol-related consequences. Furthermore, for individuals lower in mindfulness, low PBS use may lead to increased experience of alcohol consequences. Interventions that incorporate PBS may be most beneficial for students who are low in mindfulness and unlikely to engage in drinking control strategies.