Mental & Emotional Health
Pain Management
Spiritual Health

Can Meditation Cure Cravings for Painkillers?

People who are addicted to prescription painkillers can reduce cravings by learning to enjoy other parts of their life, according to a new study.

The research, published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, was conducted by Eric L. Garland, associate professor at the University of Utah College of Social Work. He and his colleagues looked at the effectiveness of an intervention program called Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE).

The program, which is based on the latest research on addiction, neuroscience, psychology and mindfulness, is aimed at helping people live with the positives and negatives of everyday life, without relying on substance abuse to cope.

The participants in the study got eight weeks of instruction in using mindfulness techniques to alleviate pain and craving while strengthening their positive feelings.

For example, the University of Utah said in a news release, participants were taught a “mindful savoring practice,” in which they focused attention on pleasant experiences such as a beautiful nature scene or a feelings of connection with a loved one. Meditation sessions taught the participants to focus awareness on the colors, textures and scents of a bouquet of flowers. After the sessions, the participants practiced the technique on their own.

The research showed that the more the participants’ brains became active in response to healthy pleasure, the less they craved opioids.

Additionally, the patients were taught another technique that improved their outlook: reframing, or seeing a negative event as, for example, an opportunity to promote growth.

“These findings are scientifically important because one of the major theories about how and why addiction occurs asserts that over time drug abusers become dulled to the experience of joy in everyday life, and this pushes them to use higher and higher doses of drugs to feel happiness,” said Garland.

“This study suggests that this process can be reversed. We can teach people to use mindfulness to appreciate and enjoy life more, and by doing that, they may feel less of a need for addictive drugs. It’s a powerful finding.”

Garland, who developed MORE, said it also is being tested on people who want to lose weight or quit smoking.

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