Theoretical implications and clinical support for heart rate variability biofeedback for substance use disorders

Curr Opin Psychol. 2019 Dec;30:92-97. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2019.03.008. Epub 2019 Apr 2.


Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback is an accessible, cost-effective intervention that has demonstrated clinical value for numerous physical and mental health conditions; however, research on HRV biofeedback in substance use disorders (SUD) is in its nascence. We argue that HRV biofeedback may be particularly beneficial as an adjunct treatment for SUD by targeting bodily systems that are known to be disrupted by chronic substance use and are not historically the focus of psychosocial or pharmacological SUD treatment approaches. In addition to advocating for HRV biofeedback applications in SUD, we identify several gaps within the existing experimental literature, and propose new studies that could accelerate understanding of how and for whom HRV biofeedback is most likely to promote positive behavior change.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biofeedback, Psychology / drug effects*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*