Effects of Yoga on Physiological and Behavioral Precursors of Drug Abuse

Project: Research project

Project Details


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): The overall aim of this R03 proposal is to conduct a formative study and a small randomized control trial (RCT) to test whether a physically vigorous yoga intervention has a beneficial impact on drug use and its behavioral, psychological, and psychophysiological precursors in high-risk adolescents. There is a growing knowledge base on the effectiveness of yoga in improving physical and emotional health. However, most studies have been conducted with adults and focused on psychological and physical clinical outcomes. Yoga has the potential to impact behavioral precursors to drug abuse by targeting biologically based processes of emotional regulation and inhibitory control skills. To date, there has been no comprehensive examination of the responsivity of these vulnerability traits to approaches such as yoga, which are by nature designed to enhance these regulatory skills. As such, we propose the adaptation and testing of a yoga intervention to examine how this mind-body form of exercise influences the psychological, behavioral, and psychophysiological substrates that underlie drug abuse. The specific aims of this 3-year study are to: Aim 1. Conduct a formative study to develop and pre-test a physically vigorous yoga intervention through cultural and developmental tailoring of existing materials with input from a local Teen Advisory Board and an Expert Panel, focus groups, and pre-testing of the curriculum. Aim 2. Conduct a pilot RCT to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention on precursors of drug abuse and obtain requisite data to support a full-scale efficacy trial. We hypothesize that the yoga intervention will lead to improved emotional, cognitive, and behavioral regulation, coping, mood, and psychophysiological stress reactivity and recovery, which, in turn, will mediate the effects of the intervention on drug use, externalizing behaviors, and school performance. Intervention materials will be developed and pre-tested through a formative process in Year 1. In Years 2 and 3, the resulting physically vigorous yoga intervention will be tested in a small RCT with high risk adolescents. Multi-rater (student, teacher) and multi-method (survey, psychophysiological, administrative) data will be collected at pre- and post-intervention from experimental (N=45) and control (N=45) groups. Process and fidelity data will be collected to document implementation and serve as a quality improvement. Adjustments to the mediation model will be made for baseline fitness, prior drug use, and age. Also, we will explore whether change in fitness level moderates intervention effects. This application of a vigorous yoga intervention to positively influence high risk youth is highly innovative in its targeting of critical underlying behavioral, psychological, and psychophysiological mechanisms shown to be related to drug use. Results will be incorporated into a subsequent R01 application as preliminary data for a larger scale efficacy trial.

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: The overall aim of this study is to adapt and test a vigorous yoga intervention with high-risk adolescents to examine whether this mind-body form of exercise is a viable alternative approach for prevention of drug use and abuse. This application of yoga techniques will offer new insights into ways in which mindful physical activity may positively affect stress reactivity and resilience, self regulation, coping, and other conditions associated with eventual drug abuse.
Effective start/end date9/1/098/31/13


  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: $202,411.00
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: $203,506.00
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: $207,334.00


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