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Mindfulness Decouples the Relation Between Automatic Alcohol Motivation and Heavy Drinking

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.2012.31.7.729

Dual-process models of addiction propose that alcohol and drug use are influenced by automatic motivational responses to substance use cues. With increasing evidence that automatic alcohol motivation is related to heavy drinking, researchers have begun to examine interventions that may modulate the relation between automatic processes and alcohol use. Recent clinical trials suggest that mindfulness may be an effective treatment for substance use disorders. Little is known, however, about how mindfulness interventions may alter the influence of appetitive processes involved in addiction. The current research examined whether mindfulness decouples the relation between automatic alcohol motivation and heavy drinking. Regular drinkers completed a measure of automatic alcohol motivation at baseline, three mindfulness or control training sessions, and recent heavy drinking at a follow-up session. Regression analyses indicate that the relation between automatic alcohol motivation and heavy drinking was weaker in participants who received mindfulness training. These data contribute to dual-process theories of addiction by being among the first to document that an intervention can weaken the relation between automatic mental processes and alcohol use.