Studies have shown the benefit of mindfulness training added to substance abuse treatment. Now a study from the National Institutes of Health show that lack of mindfulness may be one of the causes of substance abuse, in the first place.
The study calls mindfulness, a “way of being that is focused on the present moment in a non-judgmental, non-reactive, compassionate manner.” The researchers looked for mindfulness in a population 107 adults in residential treatment for substance abuse. At the center, addicts filled out a 13-question survey called the Toronto Mindfulness Scale. Really, the scale looks at two components of mindfulness: decentering and curiosity. In decentering, a person can “step back” to observe their thoughts and feelings, rather than being absorbed by them. And in this case, curiosity isn’t just being generally curious about the world around you, but instead is a kind of curiousness about yourself – “the desire to know more about what you are experiencing,” the authors write.
Because the Toronto Mindfulness Scale has also been used to measure mindfulness in people not seeking treatment, the researchers could make an interesting comparison. For non-addicted people, the average score on the decentering part of the scale is 11.93; for people in residential treatment for addiction, it was 6.78. For non-addicted people, the average score on the curiosity side of the scale was 13.72; for people in residential treatment for addiction, it was 5.58.
Overall addicted people had about half the mindfulness as non-addicted people.