Yoga and Adolescent Substance Abuse
The present study tested the efficacy of yoga for reducing substance use risk factors during early adolescence.
It is during adolescence, most commonly, that we begin most concertedly to form a sense of identity. As young child, our identity would have been considerably wrapped up in the identity and relationship with our parents or primary caregivers from which point we gradually begin to form a separate sense of self, a project reaching its pinnacle as we head into adolescence.
This is one of the reasons why adolescence can be such a confusing and painful time. We are faced, often starkly, with questions such as the following; who are we? What do we want from life? What qualities are truly ours and which have we squirreled away from other people? What are our dreams and ambitions? What is our life all about?
This time of identity formation is one of the most typical times for mental health struggles and substance abuse issues to emerge as we negate our way between a merged and a separate sense of self. As the linked paper explains, adolescence is a key developmental period for preventing substance use initiation, yet education programs are rarely as effective as hoped.
The present study tested the efficacy of yoga for reducing substance use risk factors during early adolescence. Students were randomly assigned to receive either a 32-session yoga intervention (n = 117) in place of their regular physical education classes or to continue with physical-education-as-usual (n = 94). Participants completed pre- and post-intervention questionnaires assessing emotional self-regulation, perceived stress, mood impairment, impulsivity, substance use willingness, and actual substance use. Participants also completed questionnaires at 6-months and 1-year post-intervention. Results revealed that participants in the control condition were significantly more willing to try smoking cigarettes immediately post-intervention than participants in the yoga condition. These are very important and exciting findings indeed from which we hope many further studies on this theme will spring.