NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Opioid addiction can be a debilitating affliction with potentially fatal consequences. To make matters worse, its an incredibly hard habit to break, which forces many people to seek out numerous treatment methods such as counseling or rehab. Now, a new study conducted at Rutgers University finds that a combination of mindfulness techniques and medication may help those suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain experience fewer cravings and less pain.
Researchers analyzed the effect of mindfulness and methadone therapy on 30 patients dealing with opioid addiction coupled with chronic pain. To be clear, mindfulness is a meditative technique centered on clearing one’s mind of all intrusive thoughts and focusing completely on the present moment.
The results of the analysis revealed that patients who received a combined treatment of methadone along with mindfulness training were 1.3 times more capable of controlling their opioid cravings than patients who received a more traditional combination of methadone coupled with regular counseling. These meditative patients also displayed lower levels of pain and stress, as well as more overall positivity.
Interestingly, the study’s authors noted that the patients who received mindfulness training were more aware of the opioid cravings they experienced, but due to the calming nature of the meditation, they were better equipped to deal with and suppress those feelings.
“Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has been an effective form of medication treatment for opioid use disorder,” comments Associate Professor Nina Cooperman, a clinical addiction psychologist at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in a release. “However, nearly half of individuals on MMT continue to use opioids during treatment or relapse with six months.”
Cooperman would go on to say that most people with opioid addiction suffer from some combination of chronic pain, depression, or anxiety. With this in mind, mindfulness training is an ideal treatment method as it has been shown to be helpful in alleviating all of these conditions.
According to the study, mindfulness-based interventions can help patients become more aware of their bodies, allowing them to institute greater self-control over their cravings. This increased self-awareness can also help opioid addiction patients hold back from making hasty, poor decisions in the event of physical or emotional pain.
Meditation has also been shown to help people reduce their negative thoughts and focus on the positive events in their life, which may also prove very beneficial for patients as they struggle to control their emotions while dealing with addiction.
The study is published in the scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.