Conference Coverage

Mindfulness-based relapse prevention tied to lower anxiety, depression



– A mindfulness-based relapse prevention program resulted in significantly greater declines in anxiety and depressive symptoms among participants in an opioid addiction treatment program than those seen in patients who received treatment as usual, suggest results of a small nonrandomized controlled trial. Relapse rates trended downward with mindfulness but were not significantly different from the treatment-as-usual (TAU) group.

“Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) can be successfully implemented in an outpatient setting with as good as or better results as treatment as usual,” Keith J. Zullig, PhD, MSPH, chair and professor in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in Morgantown, said at the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.

Though relapse rates did not show a statistically significant drop with mindfulness treatment compared with treatment as usual, the downward trend suggests that it is worthwhile to conduct a larger scale study, Dr. Zullig said.

The significant reductions in anxiety and depression scores among those practicing mindfulness suggest that MBRP particularly benefits patients with co-occurring mood disorders, he added.

The researchers recruited 60 participants from a Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment program who had been substance free for at least 90 consecutive days. Participants chose whether to enter the MBRP group or the treatment-as-usual group.

The treatment-as-usual group attended biweekly 60-minute sessions with a cognitive-based therapy process group led by a licensed therapist for 36 weeks. The MBRP group involved 24 weeks of biweekly attendance at 60-minute sessions, also led by a licensed therapist, followed by 12 weeks in the treatment-as-usual group.

The MBRP instruction involved the following:

  • Mindful skill building
  • Breathing
  • Meditation
  • Mindful movement (“gentle yoga practiced with mindful awareness of the body”)
  • Using all the senses
  • Increasing awareness of breath, body sensations, thoughts, and emotional energy
  • Mindfulness in everyday life
  • Daily home practice of formal mindfulness meditation for 30 minutes per day, 5-6 days a week
  • Discussing practice/exercises both in and outside class

Researchers tracked retention rates, any prohibited substance relapse, and four self-reported measures at 12, 24, and 36 weeks’ follow-up. The self-reported measures looked at craving, with the Desire for Drug Questionnaire; anxiety, with the Overall Anxiety Severity and Impairment Scale, range 0-20); depression, with the Overall Depression Severity and Impairment Scale, range 0-20; and mindfulness, with the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire.

Participants in both groups were statistically similar in gender, employment, education, insurance, and marital status at baseline.

Of the 24 patients who entered the MBRP program, 14 completed the full 24 weeks of intervention and 12 subsequent weeks. Among the 36 participants who entered the treatment-as-usual group, 20 completed the 36 weeks.

Retention was 75% in both groups at 24 weeks, but retention from 24 to 36 weeks was nonsignificantly greater in the mindfulness group (93% vs. 91% treatment as usual).

Relapse at both 24 and 36 weeks was lower among those using mindfulness but without a statistically significant difference. At 24 weeks, 44% of the treatment-as-usual participants had relapsed at least once, compared with 33% of the MBRP participants (intent to treat).

At 36 weeks (n = 37), 45% of the 22 remaining in the treatment-as-usual group had relapsed, compared with 40% of the 15 in the MBRP group. However, 20% of those in MBRP (3 of 15) relapsed between the 24 and 36 week follow-ups, compared with 5% (1 of 22) in the treatment-as-usual group, still a nonsignificant difference.

Anxiety scores were higher at baseline in the MBRP group (11 MBRP vs. 7.25 TAU) but were similar in both groups at 36 weeks (5.79 MBRP vs. 5.6 TAU). Depression scores also were higher at baseline in the MBRP (8 vs. 6.3) but ended slightly lower than the treatment-as-usual group at 36 weeks (3.71 MBRP vs. 4.35 TAU). The reductions in depression and anxiety scores for the MBRP group were significantly greater than in the treatment-as-usual group.

Mindfulness scores were not significantly different at baseline between the groups but were significantly higher at 36 weeks in the mindfulness groups (3.47 vs. 3.3, range 1-5).

“Relapse rates were trending lower in the MBRP group although not statistically significant,” Dr. Zullig said. “Significant decreases occurred in craving in both MBRP and treatment-as-usual groups.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded the research. The authors had no disclosures.

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