Mindfulness in the Treatment of Adolescents with Problem Substance Use
Mia G. Cohen, Peggilee Wupperman and Gregory Tau
Affiliation: New York Presbyterian Hospital, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 525 East 68th Street, Box 140, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Keywords: Mindfulness, meditation, substance use disorders, addiction, adolescents, alcohol, drugs.
Background: Substance use disorders (SUDs) often begin in adolescence and follow a long relapsing-andremitting
course. Not only are SUDs prevalent, but existing evidence-based treatments for SUDs show a mean withinsubject
effect size of less than medium magnitude. Emerging research provides support for the use of mindfulness-based
treatments to target SUDS in adults, and these treatments could hold promise for adolescents. The practice of mindfulness
involves awareness, attentiveness, and acceptance of experiences occurring in the present moment.
Method: This article will provide a detailed description of mindfulness, discuss potential mechanisms of action, and review
literature that supports the application of mindfulness-based interventions to the treatment of adolescents with SUDs.
Results: Studies support the use of mindfulness in adults with SUDs. Research exploring the use of mindfulness in adolescents
is beginning to emerge.
Conclusions: By facilitating the ability to experience and thus tolerate negative emotions, thoughts, and sensations (including
urges or cravings), mindfulness fosters the capacity to respond flexibly and adaptively to internal and external
triggers for substance use. Because difficulty tolerating negative affects is a neurodevelopmental aspect of adolescence
and a factor in vulnerability to SUDs, mindfulness-based treatments may be particularly appropriate for adolescents with
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