For people with anxiety and depression, there’s a well-known drug that delivers consistent results. Now, there may be a pill-free option for some: Recent research shows that a stress reduction regimen can be a reliable alternative.
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center have found that a guided anti-stress program known as mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, works as well as escitalopram [es-sye-tal’-oh-pram]. The drug is also known by its brand name, Lexapro.
During a study involving nearly 300 people in the northeastern United States, patients were separated into two groups. One of the groups used MBSR while the other took escitalopram. The MBSR patients spent two months attending weekly classes, one weekend retreat class and doing daily, 45-minute home exercises. Patients’ anxiety symptoms were measured at the beginning and end of the trial.
Both groups of patients had anxiety levels reduced about 30% to nearly identical levels. That, the researchers said, shows the drug and MBSR to have very similar effectiveness.
The findings about MBSR may prove to be consequential beyond just its efficacy. The researchers say it gives evidence for doctors to prescribe and insurance companies to cover mindfulness-based stress reduction as an effective anxiety treatment. For now, few insurance providers reimburse patients for mindfulness meditation programs.
The researchers also note other advantages for MBSR: A mindfulness facilitator needs no medical degree and classes can be held anywhere.
While some anxiety certainly warrants medication, some patients might use mindfulness tools to avoid an unnecessary prescription.