IAS 2019 – Mindfulness intervention reduces viral load for men using meth
Articles,  Blog

IAS 2019 – Mindfulness intervention reduces viral load for men using meth


The intervention that we tested was for HIV-positive
men who have sex with men ñ so gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men ñ who
use methamphetamines. One of the heartbreaking things with methamphetamine
use is that people are less responsive to natural rewards. Like a beautiful sunset,
or a nice meal, or a good talk with a friend. Weíre really trying to sensitize people to
these non-drug sources of reward. So it hopefully makes meth a less dominant force in their
life. My research is very much influenced by harm
reduction. Much of drug treatment is telling people what they canít do, or what they should
avoid, or how they should restrict their lives. The positive affect intervention is so different
because it takes this approach of helping people add things to their lives. And enhance
their functioning without demanding that they be abstinent from stimulants like methamphetamine. The positive affect intervention was a five-session,
individually delivered intervention. People had one-on-one sessions with a counselor.
They did about eight different skills that we know increase peopleís positive affect.
One of them for example was gratitude journaling where people write about things they were
grateful for that day, like someone holding the door for them, waking up, breathing ñ
any minor thing that can uplift their mood. There were other things that we practiced
in the intervention with participants, like meditation and relaxation training. Specifically,
mindfulness meditation techniques that we put all together to really help people feel
happy and engaged in life in the hope that it could help them cope better with symptoms
of meth withdrawal, but also make them more sensitized or engaged in their environment
outside of their drug use. People who took part in the positive affect
intervention seemed to do really well, or were much better during the contingency management
period. So even though everyone was receiving rewards for reducing their meth use, we saw
that people in the positive affect intervention had less meth craving, more positive affect
and better mindfulness. That translated into real benefits for them in terms of their viral
load. We see that people in the positive affect intervention had lower viral load over the
15-month follow-up. So it was durable reductions in viral load. And they were also more likely
to be virally suppressed over that follow-up period. So it was clinically meaningful as
well. I think youíre always surprised by findings.
As a scientist, we test these interventions, and they take about 6 ñ 7 years to get an
answer on. Itís a big ask to have a five-session intervention change the course of peopleís
viral loads over the course of 15 months. So they were very surprising findings.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *