Kirsten Pickard, BA.Ms. Pickard has disclosed that she has no relevant financial or other interests in any commercial companies pertaining to this educational activity.
REVIEW OF: Kamboj SK et al, Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2017;20(11):936–947
Mindfulness is a growing trend in mental health treatment, but it often requires hours of practice to become proficient. What if you could provide your patients with an introductory mindfulness lesson in less than 15 minutes and see meaningful reductions in their risky drinking?
Kamboj and colleagues designed a randomized, double-blind study to examine whether ultra-brief mindfulness training could yield better outcomes than a closely matched active control using relaxation. Participants (n = 68, 50% female) met study criteria for being “hazardous drinkers” by consuming at least 14 or 21 standard units of alcohol per week for women and men, respectively (1 12-oz beer with 5% alcohol = 1.75 units of alcohol).
Following intake, instructions for mindfulness (n = 34) and relaxation (n = 34) were given to participants. Relaxation instructions discussed calming the mind, releasing tension, and gaining control over cravings. Mindfulness instructions focused on being attentive and experiencing cravings as temporary events in the body that could be tolerated without acting on them.
Instructions involved four phases: introduction (30 seconds), explanation of strategy (3 minutes), preliminary experiential practice (4 minutes), and main strategy practice (7 minutes). Participants received practice materials and were instructed to practice their assigned strategy for 15 minutes daily over the following week.
At 1 week follow-up, the mindfulness group showed a significant reduction in alcohol consumed, with a reduction of 9.31 units or 74.5 g of ethanol (p < .001) compared to a reduction of just 3 units or 24 g of ethanol for the active control.
CATR’s Take: Even in small doses, teaching patients to use basic mindfulness strategies to tolerate cravings may yield meaningful reductions in alcohol or substance use, at least in the short term.