Individuals who participated in the 10-day Vipassana meditation course reported greater decreases in attempts to avoid unwanted thoughts than individuals who did not take the course. Change in levels of avoidance partially mediated the relationship between Vipassana course participation and alcohol use and consequences three months following release from jail.
These results provide support for the hypothesis that thought avoidance may be an important component in the relationship between meditation and alcohol use (Witkiewitz, Marlatt & Walker, 2005
). Vipassana course participants did not report a significant decrease in intrusive thoughts; thus frequency of unwanted thoughts may not be as important as the manner in which an individual copes with those thoughts. Future studies and treatments may benefit from addressing attempts to avoid unwanted negative thoughts, as well as exploring what other factors mediate this relationship.
While this study shows promising results, there are several limitations, the primary of which is the absence of random assignment to condition. Although there were no significant differences between course participants and TAU controls at baseline, it is important to replicate these findings in a randomized trial. Additionally, this sample represents a unique and specific population of incarcerated adults who were not necessarily seeking treatment. Future investigations would benefit from assessing mindfulness-based treatments in a treatment-seeking community sample. Moreover, the high attrition rate, (approximately 47% at 3 months) although common in this population, (Farrington, Petrosino & Welsh, 2001
) limits the power to detect differences. Although there were no significant differences between completers and non-completers greater retention would add strength to the study.
Despite the limitations, the current study provides preliminary findings that might prove useful in furthering our understanding of effects of Vipassana meditation on alcohol use and negative consequences. While future research examining the role of attempts to control unwanted thoughts is clearly warranted, the current findings present a starting place for further attempts to better our understanding of the power and potential of mindfulness techniques.