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Brief mindfulness training helps heavy drinkers cut back

Mindfulness could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, according to researchers who used brief audio recordings to train drinkers in such strategies.

Mindfulness could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, according to researchers who used brief audio recordings to train drinkers in such strategies

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Drinkers trained in mindfulness drank less in the following week. Picture: Alamy

Brief training in mindfulness strategies could help heavy drinkers start to cut back on alcohol consumption, a new study shows.

Researchers at University College London talked to 68 people who said they drank heavily but not to the point of having an alcohol use disorder.

Half were trained to practise mindfulness, which teaches a heightened awareness of feelings and bodily sensations, so they pay attention to cravings instead of suppressing them, through 11-minute audio recordings.

Relaxation techniques

The other half were taught relaxation strategies, chosen as a control condition that appeared to be just as credible as the mindfulness exercise for reducing alcohol use.

At the end of the training participants were encouraged to continue practising the techniques for a week.

The mindfulness group drank 9.3 fewer units of alcohol (roughly equivalent to three pints of beer) in the following week compared with the week preceding the study, while there was no significant reduction in alcohol consumption among those who had learned relaxation techniques.


Kamboj S et al (2017) Ultra-brief mindfulness training reduces alcohol consumption in at-risk drinkers: A randomized double-blind active-controlled experiment. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyx064.

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