A Pilot Study of Ambulatory Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback for Substance Use Disorder
Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) is an biobehavioral intervention involving rhythmic breathing at resonance frequency that stimulates cardiovascular regulatory systems to help individuals better regulate affect and bolster cognitive control. This intervention has already shown its potential as a substance use disorder (SUD) treatment tool, but practical limitations of its accessibility, labor intensiveness, and cost have previously prevented this intervention from going to scale. Second-generation, ambulatory HRVB technology, however, has overcome these limitations and now allows patients to practice HRVB in-the-moment when its needed most. This study is testing the efficacy of second-generation, ambulatory HRVB for the first time with individuals with SUD.
- Substance Use Disorders
- Eligible Ages
- Over 18 Years
- Eligible Genders
- Accepts Healthy Volunteers
- ≥18 years of age - Own a smartphone - English proficiency - DSM 5 diagnosis of substance use disorder - In the first year of a current substance use disorder recovery attempt with a goal of total alcohol and other drug abstinence
- Medical history of severe cardiac arrhythmia - Active psychosis
- Study Type
- Intervention Model
- Parallel Assignment
- Intervention Model Description
- Heart rate variability biofeedback + treatment as usual vs. treatment as usual only
- Primary Purpose
- None (Open Label)
Heart rate variability biofeedback + treatment as usual
|The experimental group will participate in 8 weeks of heart rate variability biofeedback practice using the Lief heart rate variability biofeedback Smart Patch and smartphone app + treatment as usual. Participants will be asked to, 1) wear the Lief Smart Patch for at least 8 hours per day, 2) do 15mins of scheduled heart rate variability biofeedback practice daily, and 3) use it as needed in response to negative affect in-the-moment.||
Treatment as usual only
|The control group will participate in 8 weeks of treatment as usual only.||
- Massachusetts General Hospital
Study ContactDavid Eddie, Ph.D.
Alcohol and other drug use (AOD) lapses in early substance use disorder (SUD) recovery typically arise from interactions between aversive affective states and stressors that together elicit urges to use. A central goal of first-line cognitive-behavioral SUD treatments is to strengthen affective and cognitive control to increase individuals' ability to override impulses to use AOD. Yet certain automatic physiological processes compromised by SUD dynamically interact with internal affective states and environmental cues to undermine effortful cognitive control and outcompete cognitive goals to avoid substance use. Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRVB) is a biobehavioral intervention involving rhythmic breathing at resonance frequency (RF) that stimulates the body's baroreflex mechanism to offset these psychophysiological deficits. The autonomic normalization effected by RF breathing is thought to bolster cognitive control efforts by interrupting or dampening automatic-visceral reactions that can undermine treatment gains, and in doing so support better decision-making, motivation, reductions in craving, and shifts in attention allocation. Previous studies of HRVB have focused on positive behavioral effects that accrue over a series of weeks or months, rather than 'in-the-moment'. These chronic behavior changes, although clinically valuable, are labor and time intensive to elicit, reducing the likelihood of large-scale uptake of the intervention. Further, first-generation HRVB's regular daily practice model is likely to only partially mitigate the intense momentary bouts of emotion dysregulation that are triggers for AOD use in those in early SUD recovery. In contrast, recent studies have demonstrated that a brief exposure to RF breathing in anticipation of psychosocial stress, or during induced stress, helps to control physiological arousal, reduce state anxiety, and improve cognitive performance. It is posited that such bursts of in-the-moment HRVB practice could serve as a potent SUD treatment tool that helps individuals self-regulate emotions when needed most. Recent advances in the field have given rise to small, lightweight, wearable biosensors that can allow wearers to do HRVB on-the-go. These devices also have the capacity to function as a just-in-time intervention by prompting in-the-moment HRVB practice when autonomic hyperarousal is detected, to buffer salient triggers and urges to use AOD. This research builds on a body of preliminary work speaking to HRVB's potential as an addendum to first-line SUD treatments by exploring for the first time in this disorder this second-generation, ambulatory, HRVB technology. Specific aims of this research include, 1) assessing ambulatory HRVB's uptake by individuals with SUD, 2) testing day-level effects of in-the-moment HRVB practice on affective states and substance use, and 3) testing the accumulative effects of scheduled daily HRVB practice, in-the-moment HRVB practice, and their interaction, on substance use.