Effectively Treat Substance Use Disorder with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness is likely an effective tool in helping people with addiction because it’s a single, simple skill that a person can practice multiple times throughout their day, every day, regardless of the life challenges that arise.” – James Davis
Substance abuse is a major health and social problem. There are estimated 22.2 million people in the U.S. with substance dependence. It is estimated that worldwide there are nearly ¼ million deaths yearly as a result of illicit drug use which includes unintentional overdoses, suicides, HIV and AIDS, and trauma. Obviously, there is a need to find effective methods to prevent and treat substance abuse. There are a number of programs that are successful at stopping the drug abuse, including the classic 12-step program emblematic of Alcoholics Anonymous. Unfortunately, the majority of drug and/or alcohol abusers relapse and return to substance abuse.
Hence, it is important to find an effective method to treat substance abuse and prevent relapse but an effective treatment has been elusive. Most programs and therapies to treat addictions have poor success rates. Recently, mindfulness training has been found to be effective in treating addictions. The research has been accumulating. So, it makes sense to pause and take a look at what has been learned.
In today’s Research News article “A Narrative Review of Third-Wave Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies in Addiction.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8080172/ ) Balandeh and colleagues review and summarize the published research studies of the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies for the treatment of addictions.
They report that the published research demonstrates that the mindfulness-based therapies of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) are all effective for the treatment of addictions. These therapies vary greatly in emphasis and techniques. The major common thread is mindfulness training. This would suggest that it’s developing mindfulness per se that is effective in treating addictions.
They report that on a number of explanations for the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapies for the treatment of addictions. These include the ability of mindfulness training to change the individual’s responses to the usual triggers for drug use, changing the brain’s response to cravings, and sensing cravings as just another physical sensation. Regardless of the mechanism or mechanisms, it is clear that mindfulness training is effective for the treatment of substance use disorder.
So, effectively treat substance use disorder with mindfulness.
“One reason addiction is so hard to beat is that it’s a pattern of conditioned responses. The part of your brain responsible for higher reasoning essentially gets cut out of the decision-making process and you react reflexively to stimuli associated with drugs and alcohol. Practicing mindfulness gradually undoes this conditioning.” – Renewal Lodge
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Balandeh, E., Omidi, A., & Ghaderi, A. (2021). A Narrative Review of Third-Wave Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies in Addiction. Addiction & health, 13(1), 52–65. https://doi.org/10.22122/ahj.v13i1.298
Substance use disorder (SUD) is a prevalent health issue with serious social and personal consequences. SUDs are linked to numerous physical health problems. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th Edition (DSM-V), the essential characteristic of a SUD is a collection of cognitive, behavioral, and psychological manifestations indicative of the subject’s unbaiting substance use despite experiencing significant problems due to continued use. Several alternative interventions have been indicated. Among them, mindfulness-based therapies are receiving growing attention. This article reviews evidence for the use of third-wave cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBTs) in addiction treatment. We have reviewed the literature published from 1990 to 2019. Further research is required to better understand the types of mindfulness-based interventions that work best for specific types of addiction, patients, and situations. Current findings increasingly support third-wave CBTs as a promising complementary therapy for the treatment and prevention of addiction.