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Qigong for Substance abuse

Qigong for Substance abuse

Substance abuse is a global problem that encompasses the misuse of alcohol, tobacco, heroin, and synthetic drugs. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016, approximately 275 million people worldwide used drugs at least once, accounting for 5.6% of the world's population in the age range of 15–64 years.  Currently, the treatment of drug dependency relies on drug replacement therapy, in which either methadone or buprenorphine is used to treat opioid addiction.  These drugs also have side effects, and a potential for addiction.  

This systematic review analyzed the effects of Taijiquan and Qigong for reducing depression and anxiety in patients with substance abuse disorders.  The present findings suggest that Taijiquan and Qigong exercise modalities may alleviate depression and anxiety symptoms. Given the safety of these modalities, clinicians may prescribe Taijiquan and Qigong exercise to support treatment for depression and anxiety in SUD patients. In addition, this meta-analysis showed that Qigong exercise duration of less than 9 weeks may reduce anxiety levels in SUD patients. The present findings may provide a foundation for future research and clinical applications. 

Effects of Taijiquan and Qigong exercises on depression and anxiety levels in patients with substance use disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Peng Zhang,a Zaimin Li,a Qing Yang,b Jiali Zhou,a and Xiujie Maa,c,∗

Sports Med Health Sci. 2022 Jun; 4(2): 85–94.

Published online 2021 Dec 30. doi: 10.1016/j.smhs.2021.12.004

PMCID: PMC9219269     PMID: 35782275


Previous studies have shown that Taijiquan and Qigong exercise can effectively reduce depression and anxiety in healthy and clinical populations. At present, only a few reviews have elaborated on the premise of different types of interventions, and there is still a lack of studies that systematically summarize the clinical evidence of patients with substance use disorders. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to assess the impact of the Taijiquan and Qigong exercise on the mood of individuals with substance use disorders (SUD); Articles were searched in Pubmed, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and CNKI from their inception to the May 24, 2021. All randomized controlled trials (RCT) using Taijiquan and Qigong intervention were included. With the Review Manager software to determine the effect (standardized mean difference, SMD), subgroup analysis was conducted to intervention type, exercise time, and exercise duration. Nine studies totaling 823 participants were included in the study. Overall results indicated that Taijiquan and Qigong exercise had significant benefits in reducing depression (SMD = −0.35, 95% CI: −0.53 to −0.18, Z = 4.00, p < 0.01) and anxiety (SMD = −0.31, 95% CI: −0.50 to −0.11, Z = 3.06, p < 0.01) symptoms in SUD. When depression and anxiety were examined separately, subgroup analysis demonstrated that Taijiquan intervention (SMD = −0.45, 95% CI: −0.71 to −0.19, Z = 3.39, p < 0.01) and Qigong intervention (SMD = −0.28, 95% CI −0.51 to −0.04, Z = 2.33, p = 0.02),30–60 min exercise time (SMD = −0.41, 95% CI: −0.61 to −0.20, Z = 3.82, p < 0.01) and duration of 9–12 weeks (SMD = −0.57, 95% CI: −1.10 to −0.04, Z = 2.10, p = 0.04) more than 12 weeks (SMD = −0.28, 95% CI: −0.50 to −0.07, Z = 2.59, p = 0.01) could effectively alleviate the symptoms of depression. Meanwhile, Qigong intervention (SMD = −0.31, 95% CI: −0.52 to −0.10, Z = 2.85, p < 0.01), 30–60 min exercise time (SMD = −0.29, 95% CI: −0.53 to −0.04, Z = 2.28, p = 0.02), more than 60 min exercise time (SMD = −0.54, 95% CI: −1.06 to −0.02, Z = 2.05, p = 0.04), and duration of less than 9 weeks (SMD = −0.35, 95% CI: −0.68 to −0.02, Z = 2.07, p = 0.04) had positive effects on alleviating anxiety symptoms with SUD. Taijiquan and Qigong exercise could reduce levels of anxiety and depression in those with SUD. Considering the small number of included studies, more reliable RCTs are needed on this topic.

Keywords: Depression, Anxiety, Substance abuse disorder, Exercise, Taijiquan, Qigong