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Is Music Therapy Efficacious in Treating Patients with Addictions?


Music therapy has been used as both a primary and adjunctive treatment for people with addictions to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Music therapy is the application of music administered by trained music therapists to achieve improvements in emotional and/or physical health. Investigators in this study reviewed the literature (1967 through 2006) to evaluate the evidence that music therapy improves outcomes of patients with addictions. Findings show that few descriptions of music therapies, and even fewer studies reporting outcomes of music therapies exist for the treatment of patients with addiction. Investigators found only 19 articles that either described music therapy (n=14) or were music therapy studies (n=5). Moreover, of the existing literature there was no consensus regarding the effects of music therapy on outcomes for patients with addictions. The authors suggest this indicates a need to conduct controlled studies in which the goal is to show that music therapy has an independent effect on outcomes in this patient population.

PubMed Logo Mays K, Clark D, and Gordon A. Treating Addiction with Tunes: A Systematic Review of Music Therapy for the Treatment of Patients with Addictions. Substance Abuse 2008;29(4):51-59.

This study was funded through VA’s Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center (MIRECC), VISN 4. Drs. Mays and Gordon are part of MIRECC; Dr. Gordon also is part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.