Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the feasibility and efficacy of adding integrative qigong meditation to residential treatment for substance abuse.
Methods: Qigong meditation, which blends relaxation, breathing, guided imagery, inward attention, and mindfulness to elicit a tranquil state, was introduced into a short-term residential treatment program. At first clients chose to participate in qigong meditation on a voluntary basis during their evening break. Later they chose to participate in either meditation or Stress Management and Relaxation Training (SMART) twice a day as part of the scheduled treatment. Weekly questionnaires were completed by 248 participants for up to 4 weeks to assess their changes in treatment outcomes. Participants in the meditation group were also assessed for quality of meditation to evaluate the association between quality and treatment outcome.
Results: Most clients were amenable to meditation as part of the treatment program, and two thirds chose to participate in daily meditation. While both groups reported significant improvement in treatment outcome, the meditation group reported a significantly higher treatment completion rate (92% versus 78%, p < 01) and more reduction in craving than did the SMART group. Participants whose meditation was of acceptable quality reported greater reductions in craving, anxiety, and withdrawal symptoms than did those whose meditation was of low quality. Female meditation participants reported significantly more reduction in anxiety and withdrawal symptoms than did any other group.
Conclusions: Qigong meditation appears to contribute positively to addiction treatment outcomes, with results at least as good as those of an established stress management program. Results for those who meditate adequately are especially encouraging. Meditative therapy may be more effective or acceptable for female drug abusers than for males. Further study is needed to assess ways to improve substance abusers' engagement and proficiency in meditation.