Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention Shows Greater Long-Term Effectiveness Than Standard Relapse Prevention in Landmark Study

(c) Andrew Safer 2014

A study of 286 people who had completed initial treatment for substance use disorders is the first to compare long-term outcomes from a mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) group, a standard relapse-prevention group (RP), and a 12-step group with psychoeducation. Twelve months after completing 8-week programs in MBRP and RP, individuals in the mindfulness group showed significantly lower levels of drug and alcohol use than participants in the RP group.

The results of the three-year study were published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association—Psychiatry on March 19, 2014. The article, “Relative Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Standard Relapse Prevention, and Treatment as Usual for Substance Use Disorders: A Randomized Clinical Trial”, was written by Sarah Bowen, PhD of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, and 10 colleagues who collaborated on the study.

MBRP integrates both mindfulness-based and cognitive-behavioral relapse prevention approaches. Standard relapse prevention is cognitive-behavioral therapy-based. The treatment-as-usual (TAU) group engaged in 12-step programming and psychoeducation.

At the 6-month follow-up, individuals in both the MBRP and RP groups had been using significantly lower levels of drugs and alcohol than those in the TAU group in the three months prior to the assessment. RP showed an advantage over MBRP in delay to first drug use.

At the 12-month follow-up, the MBRP group showed significantly fewer days of both drug use and heavy drinking.


Drug Use Days*……….4.63….6.09…..3.06
Any Drug Use**………13……..15……….9
Heavy Drinking Days..4.65….3.89…..1.44
Any Heavy Drinking…19……17………..8

*Average number of drug use days among participants during 90 days prior to 12-month assessment
**Percentage of participants using any drugs during this period

Two limitations in the study were noted: (1) The RP and MBRP groups included therapist training and homework assignments, whereas the TAU group did not, and (2) Due to limited urinanalysis data, much of the data was self-reported. However, the authors pointed out that research indicates that self-reports of substance use are not significantly different from urinanalysis data.

To read the abstract for this article, go to:

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