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NCCIH Research Blog

Do Mindfulness Approaches Have the Potential To Prevent Substance Use and Abuse in Youth?

May 4, 2016

Eve Reider, Ph.D.

Program Director

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

There is a great deal of interest in the use of mindfulness approaches for the prevention and treatment of psychological and physical health conditions in youth. In recent years, mindfulness approaches are being used with youth in different settings, such as schools and families. For example, mindfulness approaches have been implemented in schools with the goal of improving cognitive performance and resilience to stress in youth and and reducing stress and improving performance in teachers. Another approach has been the use of mindfulness interventions with parents, with the goal of improving their parenting skills and having a positive impact on child outcomes.

However, very little is known about the efficacy of these approaches. Efforts over the last several years have focused primarily on examining whether these interventions can have an impact in preventing different types of difficulties in children and youth at different ages; examples include mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, substance use and abuse, and physical health problems, like obesity.

At the upcoming 2016 International Congress on Integrative Medicine & Health (ICIMH), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is sponsoring a symposium on May 18, “Do Mindfulness Approaches Have the Potential to Prevent Substance Use and Abuse in Youth?” This session will examine initial research efforts to determine whether mindfulness approaches in youth populations can prevent initial substance use and abuse. We will highlight examples of prevention approaches implemented in pilot and efficacy randomized controlled clinical studies in school- and family-based settings. The studies we will review include:

  1. A school-based mindfulness and yoga intervention to prevent substance use among fifth and sixth grade disadvantaged, urban children
  2. A mindfulness-enhanced version of the efficacious and effective Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth ages 10–14
  3. A school-based adapted vigorous yoga intervention to prevent substance use in high-risk adolescents.

Our discussion will focus on lessons learned from these studies and next steps and priorities for this area of research. We hope this session is of interest, and that you can join us at the ICIMH meeting. We look forward to having a robust dialogue on this important topic!

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