Reducing stress in women recovering from substance abuse
Substance abuse and its treatment is a growing challenge for the health care community. Although substance abuse affects men more than women, a growing number of women are afflicted with this disorder and are entering treatment facilities. Stress has long been implicated as a catalyst for the initiation of substance abuse as well as a cause of relapse after periods of sobriety. Treatment strategies to control and manage stress may be beneficial to women in treatment to maintain sobriety. Mindfulness meditation, a process whereby one focuses attention non-judgmentally on the present moment, has been widely used to reduce stress. This randomized control study was conducted to measure if mindfulness meditation is effective in reducing psychological and physiological stress in a population of women recovering from substance abuse. Ten women in a residential treatment facility who consented to participate in a 6-week study were randomized into a control-care as usual group and an experimental group that attended a 90-minute meditation group once a week for six weeks. Psychological and physiological stress was measured at one-,three- and six-week timepoints during the six-week study using the Perceived Stress Scale and early morning rising salivary cortisol levels. The intervention consisted of six 90-minute group sessions conducted by a social worker trained in mindfulness meditation techniques. A multivariate repeated measures analysis of variance tested the hypotheses that there would be lower psychological and physiological stress measures over time in women who participated in the mindfulness meditation intervention that those who did not. Analysis of the perceived Stress Scores and morning salivary cortisol levels showed no significant difference when compared to the controls.