Meditation, Flow, and Heavy Social Alcohol Use among College Students

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1992

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Abstract

The basis for this study was an experiment designed to explore the effectiveness of various meditation practices and choice and combination of such, regardless of focus, in achieving more drug-free flow experiences, longer periods of meditation adherence, and decreases in heavy social alcohol use among college students. The study also examined the hypothesis that higher frequencies of reported flow in meditation were associated with lower levels of reported alcohol use and higher frequencies of post-training meditation practice, regardless of meditation focus. The interaction of several critical intervening variables not comprehensively addressed in previous studies on meditation and substance abuse, including experimental expectancy and demand, previous alcohol use, hypnotic susceptibility, and personality was checked and controlled for in this experiment. After receiving basic meditation training, 53 subjects with drinking rates typical of heavy social alcohol users were randomly assigned to one of four meditation groups or to a control group. Three groups practiced only one of three foci--object focused, visualization, or mindfulness. The fourth group chose their meditation foci each day from any of the above three types. The fifth (control) group practiced an attention Placebo activity. Four weeks of daily diaries following meditation were used to determine the level of the dependent variables--frequency of flow and amount of alcohol use. Subjects then reported post-required meditation frequency and alcohol use through four weekly phone interviews. MANOVA, ANOVA, and zero-order correlations were employed to analyze the relationships between the variables. No one specific meditation focus nor having choice and combination of foci, was indicated to result in significantly more flow, less alcohol use, or longer mediation adherence. There was a slight indication that higher frequencies of flow were related to higher frequencies of meditation practice, but no indication that more flow was related to less alcohol use. These results should be interpreted with caution for several reasons, including the short meditation training and practice period, low reliability and validity of subject reports, and problems associated with large variations in drinking rates. Future research on these issues should refine training and testing methods so that better treatment methods can be found.

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