Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation to Reduce Heavy Drinking: A Double-Blind Sham-Controlled Randomized Trial

Katie Witkiewitz, Elena R. Stein, Victoria R. Votaw, Adam D. Wilson, Corey R. Roos, Stevi J. Gallegos, Vincent P. Clark, Eric D. Claus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Mindfulness-based relapse prevention (MBRP) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have independently shown benefits for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD). Recent work suggests tDCS may enhance mindfulness. The combination of MBRP and tDCS may provide synergistic benefits and may target both behavioral and neurobiological dysfunctions in AUD. The goal of this double-blind sham-controlled randomized trial was to examine the efficacy of a rolling group MBRP treatment combined with tDCS among individuals interested in reducing their drinking. Methods: Individuals who were interested in reducing their alcohol use (n = 84; 40.5% female; mean age = 52.3; 98.9% with current AUD) were randomized to receive active (2.0 milliamps) or sham (0.0 milliamps) anodal tDCS (5 cm × 3 cm electrode) of the right inferior frontal gyrus with the 5 cm × 3 cm cathodal electrode applied to the left upper arm, combined with 8 weeks of outpatient MBRP rolling group treatment. Assessments were conducted at baseline, posttreatment, and 2 months following treatment. The primary outcome was drinks per drinking day, and secondary outcomes were percent heavy drinking days, self-reported craving, alcohol cue reactivity in an alcohol cue task, and response inhibition in a stop signal reaction time task. Results: Results indicated significant reductions in drinks per drinking day over time, B(SE) = −0.535 (0.16), p = 0.001, and a significant dose effect for number of groups attended, B(SE) = −0.259 (0.11), p = 0.01. There were also significant effects of time and dose for number of groups attended on secondary outcomes of percent heavy drinking days and alcohol cue reactivity. There were no effects of active versus sham tDCS on primary or secondary outcomes. Conclusions: Findings from the current study provide initial support for the effectiveness of rolling group MBRP as an outpatient treatment for drinking reduction. The current study did not find additive effects of this tDCS protocol in enhancing MBRP among individuals with drinking reduction goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1296-1307
Number of pages12
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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