Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention in a Jail Drug Treatment Program

Subst Use Misuse. 2019;54(1):57-64. doi: 10.1080/10826084.2018.1491054. Epub 2018 Nov 8.


Background: More than half of prisoners in the United States are estimated to suffer from a substance use disorder. Mindfulness involves attention to the present moment, and nonjudgmental acceptance of sensations, thoughts, and emotional states. Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) following substance use disorder treatment has been shown to reduce substance use.

Objective: We sought to adapt and test MBRP for a jail substance use disorder treatment setting.

Methods: We enrolled successive cohorts of incarcerated men participating in a drug treatment program in a large urban jail (n = 189) into six weekly sessions of either MBRP or an comparison communication skills intervention, between 2013 and 2015. MBRP was delivered by a culturally competent African-American trainer. Pre- and post-test measures included mindfulness, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and drug craving.

Results: At baseline, measures of mindfulness were significantly inversely correlated with anxiety, PTSD symptoms and drug cravings. Anxiety, PTSD symptoms and cravings declined significantly in both treatment arms, and mindfulness increased. Comparison of the two study arms using maximum likelihood estimation suggested a small but significantly greater increase in mindfulness in the treatment arm. Conclusions/Importance. An attention control trial of a mindfulness intervention, delivered by a culturally competent trainer, is feasible in a jail setting.

Keywords: Mindfulness; correctional treatment; meditation; relapse prevention; yoga.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Craving
  • Cultural Competency
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Prisons
  • Secondary Prevention*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Young Adult