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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Psychological and Physical Approaches for Substance Use Disorders

April 2024
meditation class group

Psychological and physical approaches have shown some success when applied to the treatment of substance abuse and addiction. Mindfulness-based approaches for substance abuse treatment, in part, attempt to decrease the impact of negative affect, which is thought to serve as a trigger for substance use. Improving distress tolerance is an important aspect of mindfulness-based substance abuse treatment. These approaches can be part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan that includes behavioral modifications, and may include pharmaceuticals to decrease cravings, group therapy, or counseling.

This issue of the digest provides a summary of current research on mind and body approaches, such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, mindfulness meditation, music therapy, and yoga.

Modality and Summary of Current Evidence

To date, there is not enough consistent data to support the use of acupuncture for substance use outcomes; however, there are some findings that suggest acupuncture may have positive effects as an adjunctive therapy for withdrawal/craving and anxiety symptoms. Only a few high-quality studies on acupuncture for smoking cessation have been conducted, so firm conclusions about its effectiveness cannot be drawn.

Read more about the research of acupuncture for substance abuse disorders

There is some evidence to suggest that hypnotherapy may improve smoking cessation, but data are not definitive. There is some evidence that hypnotherapy, compared to an active education control, can reduce the risk of daily cannabis use.

Read more about the research of hypnotherapy for substance abuse disorders

Available data suggest that mindfulness-based interventions may help significantly reduce the consumption of several substances including alcohol, cigarettes, opiates, and others compared to control groups; however, many studies have had small sample sizes, methodological problems, and a lack of consistently replicated findings. There is some evidence that mindfulness meditation, compared to active education control, can reduce the risk of daily cannabis use. There is evidence that adding the mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement (MORE) program to standard methadone treatment leads to therapeutic benefits in people with opioid use disorder and chronic pain.

Read more about the research of mindfulness meditation for substance abuse disorders

There is evidence that music therapy as adjunct treatment to standard care can lead to moderate reductions in substance craving and can increase motivation for treatment/change for people with substance use disorders receiving treatment in detoxification and short-term rehabilitation settings.

Read more about the research of music therapy for substance use disorders

Only a few studies have been conducted on the effects of yoga for substance abuse disorders. Although preliminary results have been positive, larger, high-quality studies are needed to determine rigorously if yoga is an effective treatment.

Read more about the research of yoga for substance abuse disorders

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH website at NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.


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