Background and Purpose: Chemical dependency continues to be one of the most far-reaching and devastating problems within American society, resulting in disruption of family, educational, financial and social institutions. The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential of meditation as a means to decrease the risk for relapse among adults in treatment for chemical dependency.
High relapse rates among those seeking treatment for chemical dependency have been documented, calling some to question the efficacy of current treatment methods and modalities (McLellan, 1992; Milkman, 1984; Schildhaus et al. 2000; Witkiewitz, Marlatt & Walker, 2005). Recently, more attention has been paid to the effect of negative mood states, which have been demonstrated to be significant indicators of risk for relapse. One intervention proposed to ameliorate negative mood states in this population has been meditation. The practice of meditation has been increasingly studied and found to foster feelings of well being that could improve mood, and, subsequently, counter drug craving in individuals. (Bowen, Witkiewitz, Dillworth, Chawla, Simpson, & Ostafin et al. 2006; Taub, Steiner, Weingarten & Walton 1994; Witkiewitz, Marlatt & Walker, 2005). However, prior to this research, no study had directly and prospectively investigated the effect of meditation on mood states and risk for relapse among individuals with chemical dependency problems.
This was a quantitative study with an experimental design. Participants were recruited via an introductory presentation in an in-patient chemical dependency treatment facility. They were then assigned to either a Meditation group or a Treatment-as-Usual group. Two group cycles were conducted resulting in a total of 137 participants. In the first cycle there were 29 in the Meditation group and 29 in the Treatment-as Usual group. The second cycle had 39 in the Meditation group and 40 in the control group. During the second cycle those from the first Treatment as Usual group were given the opportunity to participate in the Meditation group.
Study participants were administered pre-test and post-test questionnaires that included four instruments: the Profile of Mood States (POMS), the Assessment of Warning signs of Relapse (AWARE) scale, the 5-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Spirituality Self-Rating Scale. Participants in the meditation group had meditation twice a week with a trained iRest meditation teacher and a once a week structured CD session. Data collected was analyzed with path analysis to ascertain the overall effect of meditation on risk of relapse and the possible meditating roles of mood and spirituality.
Model confirmed a significant overall effect of meditation on risk for relapse
(ß =-.484***) that was partially meditated by mood (ß = .219**). Although meditation had a significant positive effect on spirituality, spirituality did not mediate the effect of meditation on risk for relapse.
This study could have direct practice implications as a means of addressing relapse within the chemical dependency treatment milieu. Meditation is not costly and does not require extensive training. As program administrators seek to provide more effective, less costly treatment, the implementation of meditation could prove to be an affordable option.