We previously reported that music-assisted systematic desensitization can counter-condition substance-related cues and reduce the implicated craving responses, as well as improve cognitive and psychopathological components of substance addiction. This follow-up study investigated the therapeutic contribution of listening to recorded New Age relaxing music in counterconditioning external substance-conditioned cues, as well as in the amelioration of everyday life craving reactivity, craving beliefs and depression. Twenty-one substance addicted individuals participated in a three-week randomized controlled trial consisting of two therapeutic sessions per week. Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two study groups, systematic desensitization combined with listening to New Age relaxing music recorded in individual MP3 devices, and systematic desensitization without music. Measurements of craving in response to external substance-conditioned cues, craving beliefs, everyday craving reactivity and depression took place at baseline, post-treatment and one month after the end of treatment. No significant group differences in the outcome measures were observed between both arms of the study but within group and time results suggest that listening to New Age relaxing music significantly enhances systematic desensitization and accounts for significant reductions of craving responses to external substance-conditioned cues and of craving beliefs associated with compulsive behaviour in the music group. Our study provides the first evidence on the potential therapeutic contribution of music to cue counterconditioning in substance addiction treatment. Further investigation on the capacity of music to increase the effectiveness of systematic desensitization seems warranted.
- Systematic desensitization