Mindfulness, a therapy to heavy drinking

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The study

Just a few minutes of mindfulness coaching can help alcohol abusers cut back their alcohol intake, based on a new research in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. Individuals who took part in the study drank fewer beers the following week after listening to short audio messages, while the ones in a control group didn’t make any progress.

Mindfulness is a practice that focuses on the happenings of the moment. Compared to other techniques sometimes used to battle addictions or unhealthy behaviors, which prefer teach people to avoid them or reduce their cravings, mindfulness experts motivate them to recognize such desires and react with a positive objective.

The drawback of mindfulness-based therapies is that they involve a lot of hours or days of training sessions and are not available to everyone who could benefit from them. Scientists at University College UK desired to see how a very brief intervention (a session of a few minutes) would aid people with alcohol issues.


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The research

70 people who were heavy drinkers but had not gotten to the point of having alcohol abuse disorders, were recruited for the research. 50% of them listened to a recording that coached them through some mindfulness therapies, like imagining consciously about body sensations and feelings. The audio made them believe that by recognizing these sensations-like desires, they could accept them as short-term activities, without having to act on them.

The other 50% participated in training specifically designed to help them relax and reduce their cravings. After the training sessions, both categories were motivated to continue exercising and practicing as they have been taught for a few days. The research was double-blinded, which implies that the individuals had no idea which techniques they were getting. Mindfulness as a word was not used in any experimental material or recruitment, so the people involved wouldn’t assume the technique would influence their results.


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The results

Because these two sessions were so brief and identical, the scientists expected to see only a simple reduction in alcohol consumption and only slight variations between the groups. But the outcomes amazed them. In the few days that followed, the mindfulness team consumed less liquor (approximately three pints of beer) than they had the 7 days before the research.

The other group, however, showed no significant change in the quantity consumed. Lead writer Kamboj Sunjeev, a deputy director in the University College UK’s Medical Psychopharmacology Department, said that mindfulness can make an individual more aware of their inclination to respond to urges. “By being more conscious of their desires, we think the research members were able to take objective back into the formula, instead of instantly grabbing a bottle when they experience a craving.”

Sunjeev and his counterparts wished that alcohol addicts, people vulnerable to alcoholism and misuse, as well as other distressing adverse reactions and serious health issues, could use mindfulness to lower their intake levels before they create serious problems to their health. He is also certain that mindfulness can work even without committing a lot of time, resources and efforts, by practicing informally. He suggested heavy drinkers should try self-help books, websites, and CDs that don’t involve face-to-face mindfulness therapies.


Kostas Deroukakis
Love to search, to try, to give, to learn. Knowledge, is the road for this achievement
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