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Objective: A strong relation between negative affect and craving has been demonstrated in laboratory and clinical studies, with depressive symptomatology showing particularly strong links to craving and substance abuse relapse. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP), shown to be efficacious for reduction of substance use, uses mindfulness-based practices to teach alternative responses to emotional discomfort and lessen the conditioned response of craving in the presence of depressive symptoms. The goal in the current study was to examine the relation between measures of depressive symptoms, craving, and substance use following MBRP. Method: Individuals with substance use disorders (N = 168; mean age 40.45 years, SD = 10.28; 36.3% female; 46.4% non-White) were recruited after intensive stabilization, then randomly assigned to either 8 weekly sessions of MBRP or a treatment-as-usual control group. Approximately 73% of the sample was retained at the final 4-month follow-up assessment. Results: Results confirmed a moderated-mediation effect, whereby craving mediated the relation between depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory) and substance use (Timeline Follow-Back) among the treatment-as-usual group but not among MBRP participants. MBRP attenuated the relation between postintervention depressive symptoms and craving (Penn Alcohol Craving Scale) 2 months following the intervention (ƒ² = .21). This moderation effect predicted substance use 4 months following the intervention (ƒ² = .18). Conclusion: MBRP appears to influence cognitive and behavioral responses to depressive symptoms, partially explaining reductions in postintervention substance use among the MBRP group. Although results are preliminary, the current study provides evidence for the value of incorporating mindfulness practice into substance abuse treatment and identifies a potential mechanism of change following MBRP.
An emerging body of research suggests that mindfulness-based interventions may be beneficial for smoking cessation and the treatment of other addictive disorders. One way that mindfulness may facilitate smoking cessation is through the reduction of craving to smoking cues. The present work considers whether mindful attention can reduce self-reported and neural markers of cue-induced craving in treatment seeking smokers. Forty-seven (n = 47) meditation-naïve treatment-seeking smokers (12-h abstinent from smoking) viewed and made ratings of smoking and neutral images while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were trained and instructed to view these images passively or with mindful attention. Results indicated that mindful attention reduced self-reported craving to smoking images, and reduced neural activity in a craving-related region of subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC). Moreover, a psychophysiological interaction analysis revealed that mindful attention reduced functional connectivity between sgACC and other craving-related regions compared to passively viewing smoking images, suggesting that mindfulness may decouple craving neurocircuitry when viewing smoking cues. These results provide an initial indication that mindful attention may describe a ‘bottom-up’ attention to one’s present moment experience in ways that can help reduce subjective and neural reactivity to smoking cues in smokers.