This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Stress reduction studied as treatment for alcohol abuse

Published: January 10, 2008

Reporter Contributor

A researcher at UB’s Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) is initiating a study of “mindfulness-based stress reduction,” a technique often used in behavioral medicine for stress reduction, but not before as an adjunct in the treatment of alcohol-use disorders.

"By adapting and applying mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, in alcoholism treatment, we hope to develop an increased ability to cope with stress and enhanced psychological well-being among alcohol-dependent individuals,” said principal investigator Gerard J. Connors. “For people who often deal with stress in their lives by turning to alcohol, this could be a very positive alternative.”

Connors is a clinical psychologist and director of RIA. He also is a professor in the Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, and research professor in the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The four-year investigation on MBSR will be conducted with support from a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The MBSR intervention provides intensive training in mindfulness practices and their applications for daily living and coping with stress. MBSR emphasizes self-observation and self-responsibility, which is expected to facilitate the alcohol-dependent individual’s management of the stressors that place the person at increased risk for drinking.

The project will be conducted in two phases, with the first component to include development of an eight-session treatment manual for conducting group-based MBSR with alcohol-dependent men and women. In phase two, a pilot clinical trial will be conducted to examine the effects of adding MBSR to outpatient treatment.

The long-term goal is to decrease relapse to drinking following treatment, thereby providing significant health benefits to people being treated for alcohol dependence, with corresponding benefits for their families and the community-at-large.

Connors’ co-investigators on the study include Kimberly S. Walitzer, deputy director of RIA and UB research associate professor of psychology; Nancy J. Smyth, dean of the School of Social Work; and Craig R. Colder, associate professor of psychology.