Beneficial effects of Tai Chi for amphetamine-type stimulant dependence: a pilot study

Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2016 Jul;42(4):469-78. doi: 10.3109/00952990.2016.1153646. Epub 2016 May 21.


Background: Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese sport that is classified as a moderate exercise. Recent studies have evaluated the effectiveness of Tai Chi in substance abuse rehabilitation.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the quality of life and physical effects of a Tai Chi intervention on individuals with amphetamine-type stimulant (stimulant) dependence.

Methods: Sixty male subjects with stimulant dependence from a Shanghai Mandatory Detoxification and Rehabilitation Center participated in a 12-week trial. Tai Chi was used as an intervention in the experimental group (n = 30). The control group (n = 29) underwent standard care, which included recreation activity, gesture language exercise, and self-education. Outcome measures included the quality of life for drug addiction (QOL-DA) questionnaire [four scales consisting of physiology (e.g., energy level), psychology (e.g., depression), symptoms (e.g., physical symptoms), society (e.g., interpersonal) and fitness evaluations (assessed by body mass index, body fat, hand-grip, flexibility, balance)]. Repeated measures were used to analyze the changes over time.

Results: Test scores of the QOL-DA in the Tai Chi group significantly increased after 12 weeks in the following areas: physiology, 8.71 (p = 0.005), symptoms, 4.34 (p = 0.042), society, 15.79 (p < 0.001), and total score, 10.60 (p = 0.002). A post hoc test further revealed that quality of life improved in the Tai Chi group but not in the standard care group. Physical results showed a significant interaction with balance(F(1,56) = 6.92, p = 0.011); participants in the Tai Chi group improved by 10 s while there was no change in the standard care group. Although there were no significant interactions in the fitness outcomes (i.e., hand-grip and sit-and-reach tests), the within-group factor displayed significant changes in body fat (F(1,56) = 27.79, p < 0.001) in both groups.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that Tai Chi is a promising exercise that improves quality of life for individuals with stimulant dependence.

Keywords: Exercise; Tai Chi; amphetamine-type stimulants; methamphetamine; physical activity; substance abuse; synthetic drugs.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life
  • Tai Ji*
  • Young Adult