During the initial stages of recovery, a person may feel some kind of mental haziness. It takes lots of struggle for them to think clearly after stopping using the drug they are addicted to. They will also experience emotional instability. Failure to adjust to these changes may lead to relapse.
Integrative techniques that foster meditation and mindfulness have shown increasing promise in the successful completion of a drug addiction treatment program. Meditation’s ability to “retrain thought” can serve to alter cognitive processing in the brain, thus leading to healthier interactions in the brain’s reward center. The process of meditation also serves to produce stress-reduction naturally thereby reducing the powers of triggers, cravings and withdrawal symptoms in recovering individuals. In addition, meditation has been found to lower the rate of relapse in recovering addicts.
In mindful mediation a patient pays attention to the present moment. It aims at setting the mind free from thoughts that may rekindle the flame of addiction and cause relapse. Through it a patient learns to be aware of his thoughts and emotions without letting the emotions sway his judgment. As practice by Buddhists it is a non-judgmental form of observation.
It is also known as Sati as was in ancient Pali; which is a language in India. It is essential for those Buddhists seeking enlightment as it involves three elements; awareness, attention and remembering. If you have to succeed you must be aware of the object you are focusing on, pay attention to it and remember it.
How effective is Meditation in Addiction Recovery?
The body of evidence for the power of meditation in addiction treatment is increasing. As a matter of fact, a 2007 research presented that individuals who participated in meditation during addiction recovery gained higher levels of coping skills as well as amplified awareness of substance abuse triggers that aided addiction recovery. In another peer-reviewed study indicated the effects of prayer and meditation on dopamine levels, servicing the mind and body by creating contentedness and calm through the brain’s pathways, this helps as a substitute for the effects the drugs produced in the patient.
Meditation may also be effective in preventing relapse. Research has repeatedly shown that maximized sobriety is achieved when meditation is incorporated in treatment and recovery programs. Mindful meditation has been shown to assist patients in coping with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and trauma.
Meditation and smoking cessation
Past researches have shown that mediation has effects on chemical dependency and this can be extended to nicotine addiction. Meditation has great effects in smokers and it has been verified that it increases recovery rates of smokers.
In a 2009 study of close to 160 smokers by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, it was established that mindfulness practices linked to lower physical addiction levels and floored withdrawal effects. Additionally, those who practiced mindful mediation techniques experienced a greater belief in their ability to quit smoking, showing that mindful mediation therapy may help those struggling with nicotine addiction.
Alternative and Eastern-based meditative practices incorporated into individual alcoholism and drug abuse treatment plans seem to garner some of the most promising findings in relation to emerging research. Another study was done in 2010 and it involved studying the use of the qi gong meditative practices by close to 250 substance abusers and it was found to increase the addiction recovery completion by about 14 percent. The substance abusers who were part of this study showed lower cravings, reduced withdrawal symptoms as well as reduced anxiety levels.
Similar results have been studied in one of the most popular forms of meditative practice in addiction treatment and recovery, known as Vipassana. Vipassana is a Buddhist nonjudgmental, observational practice, it seeks to harness thought positively in relation to cognitive identification with addictive impulses. A 2006 study on addicted and enslaved individuals found that Vipassana meditation minimized rates of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine abuse in released prisoners who learned the meditative technique. As a matter of fact, Vipassana participants also showed fewer alcohol-related side effects as well as fewer mental health conditions and even improved relations in social circles.
These are some of the benefits of mindfulness meditation for people in recovery:
- This practice makes life in sobriety far more enjoyable. The individual is able to get pleasure from even the simplest things.
- Those who practice the technique find it easier to manage their interpersonal relationships
- Early recovery is like an emotional rollercoaster. By practicing mindfulness, the individual will feel more in control and better able to deal with the highs and lows.
- People who practice mindfulness will be better able to spot the warning signs that they are losing their hold on recovery. This way they will be able to avoid a relapse.
- Cravings usually continue to arise in recovery. Mindfulness allows the individual to observe such thoughts without being carried away by them. People learn that they are not always responsible for their thoughts, nor do they have to be a victim to them.
Recovering fully from addiction is a challenging process that requires enough support for the recovering addict. Help and hope for addicts is available at AWAREmed Health and Wellness Resource Center. Do not hesitate to call on Dr. Dalal Akoury (MD) any day for assistance.