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October 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 7)

Mindfulness meditation breaks the spiral of opioid addiction
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Mindfulness meditation breaks the spiral of opioid addiction image

Mindfulness meditation—a passive awareness of the body and its surroundings—can help people overcome their addiction to opioids, the powerful painkillers.

After eight weeks of meditating, people lost their need for opioids, felt less pain and regained their joy for nature and family, a shift that was recorded by EEGs (electro-encephalograms), which monitor brain patterns.

With opioid addiction killing around a hundred Americans a day, researchers from the University of Utah say mindfulness meditation is a proven and safe way to break the addictive cycle.

A type of mindfulness, which the researchers call MORE (Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement), has been tested on 135 people who had been taking opioids for chronic pain. During the two-month study, the participants either meditated or took part in a therapist-led support group. Their brain function was recorded with EEGs before and after the trial.

The meditation "reversed the devastating trajectory" of opioid use, which blunts positive feelings and requires higher doses of the drug in order to function, the researchers said.

Meditators reported feeling greater joy for simple things, less pain and greater positive psychological health.

Around a quarter of people who are prescribed opioids become addicted to them; the drugs were responsible for 63 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2015.


(Source: Science Advances, 2019; 5: eaax1569; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax1569)

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