New Study: Mindfulness May Reduce Opioid CravingsDylan Romero
Opioid addiction is one of the most challenging substance use disorders to overcome. Because many people take prescription opioids for chronic pain, it is important that addiction treatment for these individuals addresses both pain management and cravings. Today, a study from Rutgers University indicates a link between regular mindfulness practice and reduced cravings and pain levels.
Research Shows Promising Connection
A new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence claims that mindfulness practice may help those overcoming an opioid addiction. The research showed that over the course of eight weeks, those who received mindfulness training along with their addiction treatment were 1.3 times better at controlling their cravings. They also showed marked improvement in stress, pain, self-control, and positive emotions, along with an increased awareness of when they were experiencing cravings.
What is Mindfulness Training?
Over the past decade, mindfulness-based intervention techniques have been analyzed as a potential treatment for many different addictive behaviors, including opioid misuse.
The disease of addiction is understood to be a cycle of compulsive substance use caused by a disruption of neural circuitry. It is suggested that mindfulness – a state of metacognitive awareness characterized by nonjudgmental monitoring of sensations and thoughts – is useful in overcoming the brain’s dysfunction. This definition may sound complex, but this practice boils down to two core components: focused attention and open monitoring.
Focused attention describes a meditative state of selective observation. An individual focuses on some sensory input – breathing or an object in their field of view. They simultaneously clear their mind of distracting thoughts and begin the process of open monitoring.
Open monitoring is the metacognitive aspect of mindfulness practice. Individuals make themselves aware of which thoughts and feelings come to mind. They acknowledge these thoughts and let them go, all without judgment.
Skills taught in mindfulness training include…
- Nonjudgmental Mindset
- Selective Focus, Attention
- Calming the Mind
How Does Mindfulness Work?
People suffering from addiction develop difficulties with impulse control and emotional regulation. Substance use is a common reaction to emotional stimulation when a person isn’t able to control and process their feelings. Emotional regulation requires four skills…
- Being aware of one’s emotions
- Identifying and categorizing those feelings
- Interpreting what they mean
- Accepting and enduring negative feelings
Situations that are stressful, frustrating, or exciting may catalyze cravings to use drugs and alcohol again for the recovering addict. Cognitive issues such as hypersensitivity, overstimulation, insecurity, and past trauma may cause people to miscategorize their emotion or ruminate on negative situations.
One of the primary benefits to mindfulness is that it encourages individuals to slow things down and quiet their minds. First, this allows them to achieve a sense of inner peace that is often the aim of their substance use. It also permits individuals to get in tune with their own emotions. By creating cognitive change, people can approach each situation intentionally and control their reactions.
Mindfulness Techniques and Exercises
These techniques can be practiced anywhere, at any time. They do not require much commitment or energy. Give some of these a try the next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed:
- Be in the Moment. When we’re waiting for something, many people are tempted to spend that time scrolling on their phones or thinking of a pressing issue. Instead, use that time to focus on being exactly where you are. This combats the addict’s impulse to escape.
- Practice Being Nonjudgmental. A person who criticizes themselves for their feelings cannot be fully healthy and in the moment. Take a moment to notice your thoughts or cravings and let them float by, instead of mentally commenting on them or trying to analyze what they mean.
- Be Intentional. Approach each day and interaction with a clear intention. For example, by deciding what you want out of a conversation, you will be able to communicate more effectively.
- Feel Compassion for Others and Yourself. Humans are social creatures. We do not have to approve of every choice that others make, and it can be challenging to do so – especially when someone cuts us off in traffic, for example. The next time that happens, try to practice extending compassion to that person for their mistake.
- Be Still. Set aside some time to sit alone in a quiet place. Focus on your breath or on an object in the room. As thoughts bubble up, notice them but do not latch onto them. This is the beginning of a meditative practice that can allow you to be more in touch with yourself.
A Holistic Approach to Recovery
At Concise Recovery, we understand that addiction treatment should treat the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. Our experts craft an individualized treatment program for each person who enters our care. We offer proven approaches such as EMDR, CBT, and DBT, in addition to mindfulness practice. Call us at 888-978-5424 to learn more today.