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MBSR changes brain networks of opiate dependent patients

Posted 03.14.2018 | by AMRA

The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with over 42,000 opioid overdose related deaths in 2016. There is a clear need for innovative approaches to help deal with the problems of substance dependency and misuse. Mindfulness-based interventions are sometimes used as adjunctive treatments for substance use disorders, but little is known about how these interventions affect the brains of substance users.

Fahmy et al. [Addictive Behaviors] used structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to investigate brain changes in opiate dependent patients undergoing either treatment-as-usual (TAU), or treatment-as-usual plus Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

MRI data were analyzed to identify structural changes in the cellular networks connecting brain regions. The researchers limited their investigation to regions previously shown to be of interest in addiction and mindfulness research. They also looked at whether structural brain network changes were accompanied by meaningful changes in personality traits relevant to recovery and relapse.

The study followed 28 opiate dependent patients (average age = 30 years; 89% male) in a four-week inpatient substance treatment program in Cairo, Egypt. Half the participants were assigned to treatment as usual (TAU) and half to MBSR. Assignment was based on order of enrollment in the study and was not strictly random.

Nineteen participants completed their treatments and post-treatment evaluations. There was no difference in treatment dropout rates. TAU included medication and group cognitive behavioral therapy. The MBSR program was a culturally adopted Arabic-language version of MBSR. Participants completed the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI), self-reported measures of distress tolerance, sensation seeking, impulsivity, and addiction severity, and underwent MRI scanning before and after treatment.

MBSR participants showed significant strengthening in the brain networks connecting the prefrontal cortex […]

March 14th, 2018|News|

MBRP practice loosens grip of craving on substance use

Posted 10.19.2017 | by AMRA

Roughly half of all substance use program graduates relapse within six months. This has led researchers to seek better ways of reducing the frequency and severity of relapses after treatment. Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is a program offered after residential or intensive outpatient treatment to prevent relapse.

MBRP teaches mindfulness skills to help substance users cope more effectively with their cravings. Rather than treating cravings as a danger to be avoided, MBRP approaches cravings as transient mental states that can be investigated and tolerated without triggering relapse.

Using data from a previously published MBRP trial, Enkema & Bowen [Drug and Alcohol Dependence] investigated whether MBRP actually weakened the association between craving and substance use. They reasoned that if it did, the link between craving and subsequent use would be weakest for those who practiced mindfulness meditation the most.

The 57 study participants (77% male, 63% Caucasian, average age = 38 years) had been randomly assigned to the MBRP arm of a parent study comparing MBRP to other aftercare programs. The participants had completed either an inpatient or intensive outpatient substance use program before starting MBRP.

In the previously published parent study, MBRP participants showed a 54% reduced risk of drug use and a 59% decreased risk of heavy drinking compared with the participants in comparison treatments.

The present study made use of MBRP participants’ reports of the quantity and frequency of their substance use (if any) during the six-month period following their completion of the program. The participants also indicated the intensity of their cravings and the extent of their formal (e.g. seated meditation) and informal (e.g., using mindfulness to “urge surf” cravings) mindfulness practice within the […]

October 19th, 2017|News|

Eating for pleasure: Biomarker identified for mindful eating

Posted 06.15.2015 | by AMRA

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Eating is often an enjoyable experience, and at times we eat more for pleasure (“hedonic eating”) than to provide nutrition or reduce hunger. Since pleasure occurs in response to the brain’s release of endogenous opioids (morphine-like neurotransmitters manufactured in the brain), the opioid system plays an important role in hedonic eating. This activity can be measured indirectly by administering naltrexone, an opioid-blocking drug that triggers cortisol secretion and sensations of nausea.

Prior research has shown that overweight women with larger cortisol or nausea responses to naltrexone are more prone to binge and emotional eating and less likely to gain weight during a mindfulness-based overeating intervention. Mason et al. [Appetite] sought to replicate and extend these findings in a large-scale randomized, controlled study of weight-loss programs with and without a mindfulness component.

Eighty-eight obese women (mean age = 47, mean BMI = 36 kg/m2) were randomly assigned to five-month diet-and-exercise-based weight-loss programs which included either a mindfulness component (based on MBSR and MB-EAT) or an active control component that included cognitive-behavioral techniques and progressive muscle relaxation.

Both programs involved sixteen 2 to 2.5 hour-long group sessions and one all-day session. Prior to randomization, participants were assessed for their naltrexone-induced salivary cortisol and nausea responses. Participants self-rated their food addiction, binge-eating, and reward-based, mindful, and emotional eating before and after treatment.

Participants’ naltrexone-induced cortisol responses were significantly correlated positively with reward-based eating and food addiction, and negatively with mindful eating. Participants with the largest cortisol responses in the mindfulness group showed significantly greater reduction in food addiction symptoms than participants with the largest cortisol responses in the control group.

Women who experienced naltrexone-induced nausea reported a statistically greater […]

June 15th, 2015|News|

MBRP-W for culturally diverse underserved women

Posted: 04.25.2014 | by AMRA

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An estimated 40% to 60% of substance abusers relapse following treatment, emphasizing the need for the development of more effective relapse prevention and harm reduction approaches. While mindfulness-based relapse prevention approaches may have considerable theoretical appeal, traditional mindfulness programs may not be completely suitable for underserved populations who have their own unique needs, and may need to be modified accordingly.

Amaro et al. [Subst Use Misuse.] studied the feasibility and benefits of incorporating “Moment-by-Moment in Women’s Recovery: A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Relapse Prevention” (MBRP-W) into existing substance use programs serving a culturally diverse, low-income cohort of women with trauma exposure histories. The 9-week program used a modified MBSR format designed to increase its relevance to women with issues of addiction, relapse, mental illness, low literacy levels, and trauma.

Three hundred and eighteen low-income ethnically-diverse women who were actively attending publicly-funded substance use programs were enrolled additionally in the MBRP-W program. The cohort was 45.3% Hispanic, 34.6% non-Hispanic Black, and 20.1% non-Hispanic White, with 45.6% having been court-mandated to treatment. Based on the difficulties of meeting the logistical demands of residential treatment, 44.3% of the women attended no sessions, 19.8% attended 1-4 sessions, and 35.8% attended 5-9 sessions. Scheduling conflicts with courts, medical providers, child protective services, and dropout from their primary clinic all contributed to attrition and lowered attendance.

Average satisfaction ratings from those who attended the final MBRP-W session were “very good to excellent” on program usefulness, quality, and importance. Participants who attended 5 or more sessions showed significantly greater rates of decline in alcohol addiction over 12 months, and greater declines in drug addiction at 6 and 12 months, than those who never […]

April 25th, 2014|News|