Development, Validation, and Feasibility Testing of a Yoga Module for Opioid Use Disorder

Hemant Bhargav, MD, PhD; Pilli Devi Vidyasagar, MSc; Sumana Venugopal, MD; Rashmi Arsappa, MD; Venkata Lakshmi Narasimha, MD, PDF; Prateek Varshney, MD; Priyamvada Sharma, PhD; Vedamurthachar A, PhD; Ganesan Venkatasubramanian, MD, PhD; Shivarama Varambally, MD, DSc; Bangalore N Gangadhar, MD, DSc; Pratima Murthy, MD



Context • Opioid use disorder (OUD) involves excessive use of opioids—such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone—leading to major health, social, and economic consequences. Yoga lifestyle interventions have been found to be useful as adjunct therapies in management of substance use disorders and chronic pain conditions.

Objective • The research team intended to develop, validate, and test for feasibility a yoga program for OUD patients that could reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms—such as pain, fatigue, low mood, anxiety and sleep disturbances—and cravings associated with drugs.

Design • The research team first performed a literature review of traditional and contemporary yoga texts, such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Light on Yoga, as well as modern scientific literature in the following search engines—Google Scholar, PubMed, and PsychInfo, using the keywords yoga, pranayama, hatha yoga, relaxation. meditation, substance use, addiction, impulsivity, craving, sleep quality, and fatigue. Using the information obtained, the team developed a yoga program and designed a pilot study that used the program.

Setting • The study took place in the Department of Integrative Medicine at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore, India

Participants • Participants in the pilot study were 8 inpatients, 6 males and 2 females, who were on opioid agonist treatment (buprenorphine) for OUD.

Intervention • The intervention was the yoga program previously validated by the research team. In the pilot study, participants were taught a one-hour, yoga-based intervention, with sessions occurring once per day, for 10 sessions.

Outcome Measures • For validation, 13 experts scored the yoga program that the research team had developed and gave suggestions for each yogic practice for use during the acute phase of withdrawal and the maintenance phase respectively. A content validity ratio (CVR) was calculated from their scoring, and the research team made changes to the program base on the scoring and suggestions. For the pilot study, assessments occurred at baseline and postintervention. The participants’ yoga performance was rated by the yoga trainer on a yoga performance assessment scale (YPA). Other measurements included: (1) the Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS), (2) the Hamilton’s anxiety rating scale (HAM-A), (3) the Hamilton’s depression rating scale (HAM-D), (4) buprenorphine dosage, (5) the Clinical Global Impression Severity (CGI-S) scale, (6) a visual analog scale (VAS) for pain, (7) sleep quality (latency and duration), and (8) the module’s safety.

Results • Four practices were removed from the program due to CVR scores below the cutoff, and one practice was found not to be feasible (Kapalabhati). Two categories of yoga modules emerged: (1) for the acute symptomatic phase (40 minutes) and (2) for the maintenance phase (one hour). Practices were added or excluded based on the phase.

Conclusions • The yoga module that was developed for reducing withdrawal symptoms and cravings in OUD patients was found to be safe, feasible, and potentially useful as an adjunct therapy to conventional treatment. (Adv Mind Body Med. 2020;35(3):20-30.)

Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.