A brief mindfulness intervention for hazardous drinkers: randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled experimental study

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Aims: Existing data support the potential efficacy of mindfulness interventions for substance use disorders. However, study blinding and appropriate control conditions compromise the quality of evidence. Here we tested an experimental intervention in hazardous drinkers, using highly controlled methods in order to address these limitations.

Design: Randomised, double-blind, active-controlled.

Setting: Laboratory.

Participants: Sixty-eight hazardous (AUDIT score ≥8) alcohol drinkers.

Intervention: Mindfulness (active) versus relaxation (active control). Both interventions were delivered through audio recording using the same voice. Interventions were matched for length (15 minutes), key words relating to craving and alcohol, sequence of components and readability scores. The word ‘mindfulness’ was not mentioned in either intervention.

Measurements: Alcohol use was assessed using the Timeline Follow Back method, at baseline and one week later. Craving and affect were measured following exposure to a neutral cue (a glass of water) and an alcohol cue (a glass of beer) during a cue exposure procedure.

Findings and conclusions: The mindfulness and relaxation groups did not differ in age, AUDIT scores, or alcohol use at baseline. Timeline Follow Back scores revealed an interaction between group and time [F(1,66)=5.175, p=0.026, ηp2=0.230]. From baseline to one week follow-up, 9.31 fewer units of alcohol were consumed in the mindfulness group [p<0.001, ηp2=0.255] compared to 3.00 units in the relaxation group [p=0.131, ηp2=0.034]. In conclusion, this double-blind, active-controlled experiment supports the potential efficacy of mindfulness as an intervention for alcohol use disorders.

Ms Shirley Sheftaly Ms Damla Irez Dr Ravi Das Dr Sunjeev Kamboj Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, Univeristy College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB
Conflicts of interest:
Funding Sources: No external funding

No conflict of interest

Dr Tom Freeman