Mindfulness meditation teaches people how to accept suffering as a normal, cohesive experience, and then move on from it.
Relapse has always been a harsh reality of addiction, but as the opioid black market fills with powerful synthetics, relapse on heroin and similar drugs grows increasingly dangerous. Fatal overdoses nearly doubled between 2015 and 2016 — the majority of which are attributed to opioid-based drugs.
We are bombarded daily with news headlines — some factual, some fictitious — announcing the newest therapy, or the latest hysteria-provoking scare (does death by fentanyl dust at the grocery store sound familiar?) as we scramble to unearth an affordable and effective way to curb the tragic rise in overdose deaths. Advocates wage vicious wars using news stories and social media, trying to figure out what treatment works best; what will finally fix it?
What if one of the most promising treatments to help prevent relapse has not only already existed for thousands of years, but is free and available to anyone?
Although research is still young, several studies have shown that mindfulness meditation may prevent relapse by helping people in recovery acclimate to the idea of stress as a normal experience that can be handled without the aid of substances. Opioid addiction is especially problematic because these powerful drugs actually change the way the human brain functions. Prolonged opioid use damages the pleasure-reward system and alters the way we experience both pleasure and pain. Opioid agonist medicines like methadone and buprenorphine are often used to help mitigate these brain changes, either for the short or long-term, but Derek Alan Crain, the Executive Director for Mindful Therapy Group based out of Seattle, Washington, thinks that mindfulness meditation can be an incredibly useful tool in concert with other evidence-based treatments.
“With mindfulness you’re teaching patients how to tune into their feelings; you’re teaching them how to suffer,” says Crain.
The idea of teaching people in recovery from addiction how to suffer may sound counter-intuitive.
After all, isn’t addiction pretty much just a ton of suffering…?
Well, is teaching mindfulness to people in recovery counter-intuitive? Elizabeth Brico has a bit more to say about it over at the original article Can Mindfulness Meditation Prevent Relapse? at The Fix.