Can mindfulness training help reduce alcohol intake?

Just eleven minutes of mindfulness training decreases alcohol consumption, says study.

In 2019 middle-aged people in the UK were more likely to exceed the weekly alcohol limit, with 37% of men and 19% of women drinking over 14 units of alcohol in a week. If drinking less alcohol is a New Year resolution that is beginning to wane, the following study may be of interest.

Dr Sunjeev Kamboj and colleagues from University College London explored whether a short mindfulness intervention could influence alcohol intake in people who drank above the recommended daily amount but were not considered to have an alcohol addiction.

For the study, half of the 68 men and women were taught mindfulness techniques and the other half were taught relaxation strategies, acting as a control condition.

Mindfulness training teaches people to become aware of moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, including urges and cravings. The people were taught that by noticing bodily sensations and not reacting to them, they could tolerate them as transitory events without needing to act on them.

Training for both groups was delivered via 11-minute audio recordings. Participants were then encouraged to continue practising the techniques for 15-minutes daily for the next week.

The results published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology found alcohol cravings reduced in both groups after a week. However, alcohol consumption decreased in the mindfulness group only: a reduction of 9.3 units, which is equivalent to three pints of beer.

“Practising mindfulness can make a person more aware of their tendency to respond reflexively to urges. By being more aware of their cravings, we think the study participants were able to bring intention back into the equation, instead of automatically reaching for the drink when they feel a craving,” Dr Kamboj said in a press release.

“Some might think that mindfulness is something that takes a long time to learn properly, so we found it encouraging that limited training and limited encouragement could have a significant effect to reduce alcohol consumption,” said co-author Damla Irez in a press release.


Sunjeev K Kamboj, DClinPsy, PhD, Damla Irez, DClinPsy, Shirley Serfaty, DClinPsy, Emily Thomas, MSc, Ravi K Das, PhD, Tom P Freeman, PhD, Ultra-Brief Mindfulness Training Reduces Alcohol Consumption in At-Risk Drinkers: A Randomized Double-Blind Active-Controlled Experiment, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, Volume 20, Issue 11, November 2017, Pages 936–947,


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