Recent studies show that the number of people suffering from an opioid substance use disorder declined considerably after participating in mindfulness practice.
Within the mindfulness practice research, participants who focused on breathing, body sensations, and emotional response experienced a reduction in substance cravings and had greater control over powerful impulses to use.
The mindfulness study found that participants had a renewed sense of pleasure in people, places and things, something that substance use often steals away.
The report findings create a new sense of hope in the battle against the opioid epidemic. The results indicate that mindfulness can help counter-act how opioid drugs hijack the brain’s reward and pleasure-seeking networks, reversing the central focus on the use of drugs.
Practicing mindfulness proves useful, either as an addition to or as a replacement of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT uses medications such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone to relieve withdrawal symptoms and psychological drug cravings. MAT is the current go-to treatment, however, in a March report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, shows that it is not geographically available to most that need it.
Eric L. Garland director of the Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development at the University of Utah conducted research to see if mental health behavioral training could be a beneficial alternative to MAT treatment.
Garland’s studied two groups; one group participated in meetings for eight weeks where they were encouraged to express emotions and discuss topics pertinent to their opioid use. The second group received mindfulness training where they learned to control and focus on their breathing, using relaxation techniques to improve emotional awareness. The mindfulness group learned to recognize the feelings of longing and jitters that accompany drug cravings. In a process sometimes called “urge surfing,” they practiced how the cravings changed as they focused their attention on them, rather than acting on them.
The mindfulness training also contained a cognitive-behavioral component. Practicing conscious control, the group learned to compare the consequences of indulging in the cravings over remaining abstinent.
“The idea that … with care and effort you can begin to undo that rewiring that comes with addiction — that is significant. This is another potential tool in the toolbox” of addiction treatments”, said Dr. Cecilia Westbrook, a researcher and resident physician at the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Hospital.
“Recovery is much more than relapse prevention. Recovery is a holistic process, and one part of that is for a patient to reclaim a meaningful life in the face of all the hardships he or she has experienced. Giving patients a specific set of tools to cultivate meaning in life is important.”- Eric L. Garland
through mindfulness training has great promise for a more sustainable and
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