People struggling with opioid addiction and chronic pain may experience fewer cravings and less pain if they use mindfulness techniques along with medication for opioid dependence, according to a new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
Mindfulness is the meditative practice of focusing on the present moment and accepting one’s thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, without judgment.
The study, led by researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey, looked at the effects of mindfulness techniques and methadone therapy on 30 patients with opioid addiction and chronic pain.
The research team found that participants who received methadone and a mindfulness training-based intervention were 1.3 times better at controlling their cravings and had significantly greater improvements in pain, stress, and positive emotions, compared to participants who only received standard methadone treatment and counseling.
The findings held true even though the mindfulness participants were more aware of their cravings.
“Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has been an effective form of medication treatment for opioid use disorder,” said Associate Professor Nina Cooperman, a clinical psychologist in the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
“However, nearly half of individuals on MMT continue to use opioids during treatment or relapse within six months.”
Cooperman said that people with opioid addictions often experience chronic pain, anxiety and depression while on methadone maintenance, which is why mindfulness-based, non-drug interventions are promising treatments.
The researchers said mindfulness-based interventions could help people dependent on opioids increase their self-awareness and self-control over cravings and be less reactive to emotional and physical pain.
Individuals with an opioid addiction could also be taught to change their negative thought patterns and savor pleasant events, which may help them to regulate their emotions and experience more enjoyment.
In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from a drug overdose, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Of those deaths, almost 68% (47,600 overdose deaths) involved a prescription or illicit opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2017 than in 1999.
Source: Rutgers University