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Alternative Therapy for Alcohol Abuse

Written by Miranda K. Pritt




Proponents of the Transcendental Meditation program initiated by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi have expressed
their ideas in various web sites on the World Wide Web, through pages such as The Transcendental Meditation Program at and the Scientific Research on Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi program of the Maharishi University of Management at In these sites positive messages are conveyed about the benefits of meditation to its practitioner within the physiological, psychological, sociological, intellectual, and interpersonal realms. Within these sites, the web-browser is presented with an abundance of information relating the vast array of health benefits offered to an individual through the regular practice of what is described as the simplest, most natural form of awareness--what practitioners of the technique term "transcendental consciousness." Through this technique, its advocates assert, one can:

    *reduce stress;

    *improve memory, creativity, and intelligence;

    *increase energy, happiness, self-esteem, and inner sense of calm;

    *reduce anxiety, insomnia, hostility, and depression;

    *cultivate a younger "biological" age;

    *improve overall health and relationships;

    * and even decrease the misuse and abuse of chemical substances such as

        alcohol, cigarettes, and nonprescription drugs.

Underlying each of these claims is the theme of the unification of body and mind into a state of consciousness which greatly facilitates clarity and order in one's awareness.  Through the deep periods of rest achieved during levels of transcendental consciousness, the mind and body are able to undergo a state of calm and focused alertness, allowing the immune system and homeostatic processes of the body to obtain optimal functioning.  Over time, proponents purport, the mental orderliness and physical calm achieved  through the technique result in higher overall levels of both physical and psychological health.

Included within the web sites are lists of documented scientific research which advocates of the Transcendental Meditation technique use to support their claims. In providing concrete references to such scientific studies, proponents of TM present the information in a persuasive manner which may seem to substantiate their claims to potential practitioners. In this report, research involving the use of Transcendental

Meditation as an alternative therapy for alcoholism and the prevention of alcoholism will be highlighted.

TM as an Alternative Therapy for Alcoholism
      Numerous studies have been conducted which  focus on the benefits of regular practice of TM as an  lternative therapy for the treatment of alcoholism.  Within these studies the general findings convey lower
rates of alcohol consumption and higher rates of total abstinence from alcoholic beverages for individuals who who regularly practice TM as compared to individuals comprising the control groups. Moreover, the findings suggest that the length of time in which one has employed the technique (whether as treatment for alcoholism directly or for unrelated reasons) is proportional to the success rates in the treatment of alcoholism and the prevention of alcohol misuse.

A Scientific Review

In a summary of 24 studies presented by Gelderloos, Walton, Orme-Johnson,  and Alexander, (International Journal of the Addictions, 26(3),1991), TM is presented as an effective therapeutic and preventive measure in the treatment of the misuse of alcohol and other chemical substances. In analysis of their data, these researchers emphasize the usage of TM as a positive alternative to alcohol consumption which enhances self-esteem and affect of its practitioner as well as the individual's subjective measure of quality of life and sense of purposefulness. This idea is particularly relevant to the assertion by the authors that low self-esteem, a sense of meaninglessness, and lack of coping skills are factors which contribute to the establishment and maintenance of any chemical addiction.

Through regular TM sessions, the authors suggest, one can achieve a healthy, long-term sense of well-being in place of the temporary rush achieved through alcohol misuse and other maladaptive behaviors. Moreover, the research suggests that the steady decline in the consumption of alcoholic beverages is in many instances incidental, one of many health benefits afforded practitioners of TM on their path to self-growth, regardless of whether those subjects are employing the technique as a treatment for addiction or for other, unrelated reasons.

Within their report, Gelderloos, Walton, Orme-Johnson, and Alexander highlight various survey, cycle design, longitudinal, and clinical studies in which greater success rates in the reduction of substance abuse were obtained for individuals in the experimental group (practicing TM), as opposed to those in the control group (not practicing TM). In studies 1-3 of their report (Benson & Wallace,1972; Winquist, 1977; Graham, Peterman, Scarff, 1971), a steady 90% decrease in the use of chemical substances, including alcohol, is reflected for subjects practicing TM two years after initiation of the program. Of those participating in Study 3, 92% reported that they felt this decreases in substance abuse could be directly attributed to the regular practice of TM. Interestingly, results from studies 1, 4 (Shafii, Lavely,and Jaffe, 1974), 5 (Monahan,1977), and 9 Friend,1975), indicate that the length of time a subject had been practicing TM is proportional to the gradual decrease seen in alcohol and drug use. Moreover, Study 6 (Katz, 1977), indicates that subjects who regularly practiced TM displayed greater decrease in the usage of alcohol than did irregular meditators. These data support the finding that regular TM sessions contribute to greater overall health, perhaps by providing coping skills which facilitate a sense of well-being. Studies 9 and 11 (Brooks and Scarano, 1985), further indicate that practitioners of TM experience less psychological distressors such as depression and anxiety than do control groups, and display overall a reduced need for the heightened stimulation offered by alcohol and drugs.
These data seem to support the idea that TM can provide a beneficial, pleasurable and long-term alternative to maladaptive behaviors such as alcohol abuse. By improving the psychological well-being of the subject, the technique offers enhanced coping skills which can replace other, maladaptive behaviors such as alcohol abuse. On the whole, the results for each of the 24 studies presented in the summary reflect greater success rates for the treatment and prevention of alcohol abuse than the rates obtained by the more traditional behavioral methods, whose long-term effects are unimpressive.

More Research
  Further support for TM as an effective preventive measure for alcohol misuse is offered by a study  conducted by Monahan which considers secondary prevention of drug dependence through the TM program in Philadelphia (International Journal of the Addictions, 126(6),1977). Like the review performed by Gelderloos, Walton, Orme-Johnson, and Alexander, Monahan's research emphasizes the psychological benefits of practicing the TM technique, which are considered integral to the positive behavioral changes and reductions in alcohol use displayed by the practitioners. Once again, the mental and physiological stability afforded by the TN process are highlighted as factors which qualify this technique as an effective and suitable preventive measure for alcohol misuse and dependence.

In Monahan's study, the reported use of alcohol and other drugs by a random sample of meditators was compared to the data for alcohol and drug use reported by a control group of non-meditators. The study was conducted to determine whether implementation of the TM technique causes a decrease in the amount of drug usage within a population; whether the program is an effective secondary prevention method; and whether a correlation exists between the regularity of meditation and the rate of decrease of alcohol and drug consumption.

The results of Monahan's study reiterate those summarized by Gelderloos,  Walton, Orme-Johnson, and Alexander in their scientific review of TM research. Monahan found significant decreases in the level of consumption of both soft alcohol (beer and wine) and hard alcohol (liquor) for subjects after learning and implementing the TM technique when compared to the non-meditating controls. Furthermore, the data in Monahan's study indicate that a correlation exists between the regularity with which subjects practiced TM and the subsequent decrease in their consumption of alcohol.


Although much research in the area of transcendental meditation and its purported  benefits remain to be performed, numerous data exist which support the contention that transcendental meditation is effective as a preventive and therapeutic method of treatment for the abuse of alcohol and other substances. Considering its numerous psychological effects as well as its rewarding health benefits, TM may be an appealing alternative to those whose previous treatment outcomes were unsuccessful or unsatisfying. In light of the poor success rates obtained by the majority of alcohol abuse prevention and treatment programs, a technique which fosters self-efficacy, stability, and a sense of empowerment may be just what is needed by alcohol abusers.


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