Mindfulness Exercises Found To Reduce Alcohol Use Among Heavy Drinkers
A new study from the University College London suggests that “ultra-brief” training sessions in mindfulness may help heavy drinkers reduce their alcohol consumption.
Indeed, after an 11-minute session and an urging to subjects to continue the practice of mindfulness, heavy alcohol users drank less over the following seven days that those who were never taught the strategy.
In the study, 68 drinkers participated, all of whom drank heavily but could not be diagnosed as exhibiting true alcohol use disorder. Half of the subjects were trained on mindfulness techniques, a practice that increases awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.
Moreover, they were taught to pay attention to alcohol cravings rather than attempt to hold them back.
The participants were told that by paying attention to body sensations, they could better tolerate the cravings as being temporary rather than simply acting on them. The training consisted of audio recordings, and at the end, subjects were urged to continue using the techniques for the next week.
Conversely, the other half were trained on relaxation techniques. This strategy was chosen as a control condition because it appeared as credulous as mindfulness exercises for decreasing alcohol use. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which technique each would receive.
In the next seven days, subjects who were taught mindfulness drank three pints of beer less (9.3 units) than the relaxation group, who showed no significant reduction in drinking.
Because severe problems with alcohol use often follow heavy drinking patterns, researchers hope that mindfulness practices could help drinker reduce their intake before these problems develop.
The study concluded:
“Very brief mindfulness practice can significantly reduce alcohol consumption among at-risk drinkers, even with minimal encouragement to use this strategy outside of the experimental context.
The effects on consumption may, therefore, represent a lower bound of efficacy of “ultra-brief” mindfulness instructions in hazardous drinkers, at least at short follow-up intervals.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology