Addiction is recognized as causing a lot of human suffering; not only for the addict themselves but also for those around them. Many addicts do manage to get periods away from their alcohol or drug abuse but these attempts to quit often end in relapse. There is now some evidence to suggest that mindfulness training may be able to help people cope better in recovery.
What is Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention?
Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention is based on Buddhist meditation techniques that have been practiced for centuries. The power of this practice has prompted individuals such as Jon Kabat-Zinn to remove some of the religious elements of the practice to use it purely as a way to treat stress related illness. Mindfulness training has produced such positive results that organizations like the Mental Health Foundation in the UK are pushing for its wider introduction. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK has also been convinced by the evidence that mindfulness training can help with mental illness and stress related disease.
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that involves carefully observing what is happening in the body and mind without becoming caught up in the action. It has been described as observing as if you are an outsider looking in. Mindfulness can be practiced as a sitting practice or it can also be performed while conducting any activity; for example, people can mindfully wash their car. Mindfulness training involves being fully present for what is happening at this moment.
Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention is said to work for a number of reasons. One problem that newly sober people have is that they struggle to cope with the stresses and strains of life. It is claimed that mindfulness can help them manage stress much better. There is also the hope that this training will make it easier for people to cope with any cravings that arise.
The Evidence for Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention
There have been a number of studies that have looked at the feasibility of using mindfulness as a way to prevent relapse. One such study was conducted by Zgierska et al where it was found that promising evidence existed to prove the effectiveness of mindfulness for those recovering from addiction. Their small study was comprised of 19 recovering addicts in an outpatient mindfulness program. One of the outcomes was that the majority of those in the study claimed they felt better able to handle stress and cravings. The stress reducing effects of mindfulness seem to be well supported and the UK Mental Health Foundations has reported that 72% of GPs believe that the technique has helped their patients with stress when it has been recommended.
There is good reason to believe that mindfulness may be of use to those recovering from addiction. Considering the amount of human suffering caused by substance abuse anything that may be of help is welcome. More research will be needed before any conclusions can be reached about the effectiveness of mindfulness based relapse prevention.