Posted from archive: 04.05.2013 | by AMRA


Chiesa & Serretti [Substance Use & Misuse] comprehensively reviewed 24 quantitative, controlled studies of mindfulness-based and associated interventions (MBIs) on different types of substance abuse and misuse. The MBIs studied included MBSR, MBCT, MBRP, DBT and ACT, as well as other modalities. Substance abuse types included alcohol, tobacco, opiates, cannabis, methamphetamines, and mixed substance abuse. Retention rates were generally moderate to high (e.g., 50-90 for alcohol abusers, 63-100 for cigarette smokers, and 57-82 for opiate abusers) and there were no reported adverse effects.

There was some limited evidence that MBIs can reduce substance use over and above wait-list controls, nonspecific educational support groups, and some specific controls, but conclusions were hampered by methodological limitations including small sample size, lack of either randomization, blind assessment, or objective measures of substance use, and insufficient information on treatment adherence and follow-up. Some of the best evidence for efficacy was with the use of MBIs for smoking cessation, where all 4 reviewed studies showed significant benefits over and above controls.

There were also some surprising findings: three studies (one using MBSR, 2 using ACT) failed at significantly reducing stress. Two of the 3 studies using the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) failed to observe significant differences in mindfulness, while a third observed only transient differences on a single subscale. The authors emphasize the need for future replications with larger sample size and improved methodological rigor before firmer conclusions can be made.


Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2013). Are mindfulness-based interventions effective for substance use disorders? A systematic review of the evidence. Substance Use & Misuse. doi: 10.3109/10826084.2013.770027 [PMID: 23461667]

[Link to abstract]