What Is Meditation Therapy for Substance Use Disorder?

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What Is Meditation Therapy for Substance Use Disorder?

It can be difficult to overcome substance use disorder (SUD) without professional support. Depending on a person’s situation, medications or traditional therapies just may not be enough. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find what clinical treatment route works best. However, meditation therapy can be a unique yet complementary alternative that provides much-needed relief from the negative effects of SUD.

Practicing mindfulness meditation can offer many benefits for those seeking sobriety. For most people, it can be challenging to deal with alcohol or substance cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and triggers. This is especially true at the beginning of recovery. Stress and anxiety are often linked with addiction. For these reasons, practicing mindfulness and using meditation therapy can help balance the mind, body, and spirit to significantly improve one’s mental health and chances of full recovery.

What Is Meditation Therapy?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the practice of meditation dates back thousands of years ago in the Eastern part of the world. Those practices focus on integrating one’s mind and body and achieving a peaceful state. Meditation is now used in Western societies to ease one’s negative thoughts and improve a person’s quality of life. Different types of meditation focus on different ways to bring concentration to the mind. These techniques may include mantras, sounds such as gongs or percussive rhythms, breathing techniques, or visual images.

The practice of mindfulness can be combined with therapy to achieve present-moment awareness, allowing individuals to feel more relaxed and worry-free. A mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program incorporates mindful meditation in addition to talk therapy. The therapist provides the individual with self-help strategies to practice coping in real-time. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is another type of intervention where an individual can practice mindfulness in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

As stated in the above article on NCCIH’s website, clinical studies have shown that these meditative therapies help individuals cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and even physical pain. These symptoms can all be effects of addiction or withdrawal from alcohol, illicit drugs, and the misuse of prescription medications.

Benefits of Meditation Therapy for SUD

The prevalence of SUDs is a widespread public health issue that has consequences for individuals, loved ones, and society as a whole. Recurrent drug use that impairs an individual’s ability to function typically defines SUDs. When a person continues to use substances despite the mental and physical health risks, this can result in SUD. Unfortunately, SUDs are also associated with an increased risk of suicidal attempts and ideation.

Mindfulness meditation is an effective treatment option for SUDs. It is a highly effective holistic approach to relapse prevention. The practice brings awareness to emotion, cognition, perception, and sensations. An individual can learn to encourage mindfulness while protecting against using substances and potential relapse.

Mindfulness meditation therapy benefits may also include:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Improved mental health
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Reduced brain activity
  • Improved mood

Effectiveness of Meditation Therapy

Mindfulness meditation has been clinically practiced for those with addiction over the years, with good results. According to a research review published in the journal Substance Abuse, studies have shown positive results from mindfulness meditation interventions for individuals facing challenges with SUDs in comparison to other therapies. Realistic case studies and thorough scientific research have proven the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation therapy. Mindfulness meditation therapies are also safe and have a very low risk of negative side effects, if any.

Mindfulness meditation-based therapies are effective for many mental health conditions as well. SUD risk factors for mental health issues include stress, depression, anxiety, emotion dysregulation, and avoidance coping. As a result, mindfulness meditation can be highly advantageous for individuals struggling to manage SUD and co-occurring mental illnesses. The practice of this type of meditation can also be helpful if a relapse does occur.

For instance, in a meditation study, approximately 60 to 90% of participants who meditated for up to four years or more beyond treatment reported lasting results. Individuals reported that they were highly satisfied with the complementary addiction treatment alternative.

Moving Forward

Mindfulness meditation therapy connects an individual’s mind and body to increase physical relaxation, emotional stability, and calmness. This helps their overall mental and physical state of health. One reason this is thought to help is that meditation can positively alter brainwaves. This reduces the production of cortisol, further enhancing relaxation. That’s why this practice greatly improves an individual’s odds of long-term sobriety. The more a person feels calm and free of stress, the less likely they are to reach for a substance for comfort.

Meditation therapy is becoming increasingly available at treatment centers and therapists’ offices. What’s more, this therapy can be done by most people and is often considered to be fun. If someone is interested in exploring this treatment, they should begin by getting in touch with their healthcare provider. That provider can then refer the individual to a facility that offers meditation or yoga services. Many treatment centers now offer this as part of a holistic plan of addiction treatment as well.

When trying a new treatment method such as meditation therapy, it’s often a good idea to bring a loved one such as a friend or family member. That person can offer moral support and make the experience more enjoyable by sharing it. it also may be helpful to research the different types of meditative treatments available. This will make it easier to request what may best fit an individual’s treatment plan and create the most effective outcome.