Mindfulness impairments in individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorders

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2011 May;37(3):165-9. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2011.553978. Epub 2011 Mar 17.


Background: Mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). Little research has been done, however, on baseline levels of mindfulness in the substance using population.

Objectives/methods: We investigated mindfulness levels using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS) in individuals presenting for substance use treatment, and compared polydrug vs. monodrug users, as well as investigated for differences between groups based on substance used, predicting that group means would fall below the mean obtained from a large national adult sample, that the different drug groups would have comparable scores, and that the polydrug users would have a significantly lower score than do monodrug users.

Results: We found that the means of most drug groups were below the national mean, and that the polydrug users had a lower score on the MAAS than did monodrug users (4 vs. 3.6, p = 0.04). We were also surprised to find that opiate users had a significantly higher score (4.31) than did users of other substances (p = 0.02).

Conclusion/significance: These results suggest that mindfulness deficits may be common in the substance using population, that there may be sub-groups in which these deficits are more pronounced, and that they may be a suitable focus of SUD treatment. These findings lend support to the ongoing development of mindfulness-based treatments for SUDs, and suggest that particular sub-groups may benefit more than others. Future research can aim at clarifying these deficits, and at elucidating their clinical relevance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention*
  • Awareness*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Consciousness*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult