Using Mindfulness and Meditation in Opioid Addiction Recovery

Meditation practices have been around since the dawn of civilization, but modern medical science has given this ancient practice a new name; mindfulness. As scientific studies mounted demonstrating the varied benefits of meditation, the modern medical establishment recognized that they could not dismiss the therapeutic value of focused contemplation. However, they did not want to advocate their new-found evidence-based modality on a practice associated with beatnik, long-haired nonconformist. Therefore, modern medicine has “discovered” mindfulness.

Decades ago, while in Oriental medical school, I was taught a Qi-Gong meditation based on ancient Taoist teachings to share with patients. This meditation is intended to empower patients with self-initiated deep healing and works within the same theoretical paradigm as acupuncture therapy. I used to offer classes to patients with this guided meditation, but I ended up making a recording of it which is available to you at no cost linked here

In the case of opioid addiction recover, meditation has been proven invaluable to successful long-term cessation. A recent meta-analysis of 24 studies focused on mindfulness and substance abuse suggests that simple meditation practices can reduce opioid use. Another recent study compared meditation to the common 12-step program demonstrating that those utilizing meditation experienced lowered relapse rates as compared to the participants in the step program.

Find essential oils to enhance meditation linked here!

How Does Meditation Work to Combat Opioid Addiction?

Substance abuse and addiction are connected to three self-regulation areas of the brain that are enhanced by meditation: attention control, emotion regulation, and self-awareness. Attention control would relate to addictive behavior in which impulses and behavior cannot be controlled, such as taking drugs. Emotional regulation would be associated with opioid use as a method of “self-medication” to relieve symptoms of distress and a way to cope with emotional stressors. Opioid users are often in “denial” telling themselves that they will quit tomorrow, or their dependency is under control; this relates to a lack of insight and self-awareness. Meditation has also been shown to repair brain damage incurred through opioid use strengthening cognitive functions, enhancing empathy and emotional awareness, improving memory, and strengthening decision making abilities. The science coupled with the fact that meditation is free makes meditation an excellent natural therapeutic modality for use in addiction recovery.

Resources:

The origin of Buddhist meditation by Alexander Wynne 2007 ISBN 0-415-42387-

Zen Buddhism : a History: India and China by Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter 2005 ISBN 0-941532-89-5

Tang, Y.-Y., & Leve, L. D. (2016). A translational neuroscience perspective on mindfulness meditation as a prevention strategy. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 6(1), 63–72. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13142-015-0360-x

Garland, E. L., & Howard, M. O. (2018). Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice13, 14. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13722-018-0115-3

Garland EL, Froeliger B, Howard MO. Effects of mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement on reward responsiveness and opioid cue-reactivity. Psychopharmacology. 2014;231(16):3229–3238. doi: 10.1007/s00213-014-3504-7.

Garland EL, Froeliger B, Howard MO. Neurophysiological evidence for remediation of reward processing deficits in chronic pain and opioid misuse following treatment with mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement: exploratory ERP findings from a pilot RCT. J Behav Med. 2015;38(2):327–336. doi: 10.1007/s10865-014-9607-0.

Garland EL. Mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement modulates neurocognitive mechanisms and reward system function in addiction, stress, and pain. New York, NY: In Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital; 2015.

Garland EL, Bryan CJ, Finan PH, Thomas EA, Priddy SE, Riquino MR, et al. Pain, hedonic regulation, and opioid misuse: modulation of momentary experience by mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement in opioid-treated chronic pain patients. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017;173:S65–S72. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.07.033.

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