Mindfulness as a Strategy for Coping with Cue-Elicited Cravings for Alcohol: An Experimental Examination
Article first published online: 15 JAN 2014
Copyright © 2013 by the Research Society on Alcoholism
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Volume 38, Issue 4, pages 1134–1142, April 2014
How to Cite
Murphy, C. M. and MacKillop, J. (2014), Mindfulness as a Strategy for Coping with Cue-Elicited Cravings for Alcohol: An Experimental Examination. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 38: 1134–1142. doi: 10.1111/acer.12322
- Issue published online: 9 APR 2014
- Article first published online: 15 JAN 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 14 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Received: 31 MAY 2013
- National Institutes of Health. Grant Number: K23 AA016936
- Cue Exposure;
Mindfulness has been identified as a promising strategy for managing cravings for alcohol and other drugs, but little controlled experimental research has directly studied whether this approach is effective. The current study systematically examined the effects of an acute mindfulness manipulation on craving for alcohol during prolonged exposure to alcohol cues.
Heavy drinkers (N = 84, 50% male) underwent a prolonged alcohol cue exposure paradigm in a simulated bar environment and received either a mindfulness-based strategy, a distraction (DST)-based strategy (active control), or no strategy (passive control) to cope with alcohol cravings and discomfort associated with craving.
No baseline differences were present between conditions. Manipulation checks revealed that participants in the 2 active conditions reported using the recommended strategies. Across groups, the initial exposure to alcohol cues was associated with significant increases in craving, urge distress, and heart rate. Mixed analyses of variance on these indices following the experimental manipulation revealed significant differences based on condition over the course of the bar laboratory protocol. The DST strategy was significantly more effective at acutely reducing craving and urge distress than the other 2 conditions, which did not significantly differ from each other.
Contrary to our prediction, these findings suggest that an acute DSTstrategy is beneficial for coping with alcohol cravings. The potential importance of protracted mindfulness training to detect significant effects on in vivo craving, additional implications, and methodological considerations are discussed.