Mind-body medicine in addiction recovery – Harvard Health Blog

As someone who has struggled with a miserable opioid addiction for 10 years and treated hundreds of people for various addictions, I am increasingly impressed by how mind-body medicine can be a vital part of the health care system. addiction recovery. Mind-body medicine is the use of behavioral and lifestyle interventions, such as meditation, relaxation, yoga, acupuncture, and mindfulness, to holistically address medical issues. Mind-body treatments can be integrated with traditional medical treatments or used as stand-alone treatments for certain conditions. Mind-body medicine is currently being studied by the National Institutes of Health and used effectively in addiction treatment, and it will likely play a role in addiction recovery programs in the future.

Body-mind principles aren’t new to the recovery movement

Mind-body principles have been around since the Restoration movement began in 1937, and they are a big part of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 Steps of AA introduce concepts such as surrender, meditation, gratitude, and letting go – all essential elements of mind-body medicine. Most 12-step meetings end with the Serenity Prayer: “God, great me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Self-help groups play a role in the recovery of many people, and the principles of mindfulness that are part of these programs – in addition to social support – should not be overlooked.

My experience with mind-body therapies for addiction

When I was sent to rehab for 90 days by the medical board due to my addiction, we participated in a lot of activities that seemed to be meant to bring medicine closer to the mind, but they were hit and miss and not particularly scientific. , and I don’t. I don’t think they had the desired effect or were therapeutic at all. For example, we made shrub mazes (I would get lost); we sat meditatively in silence (everyone around me was chain-smoking, triggering my asthma); we have had repeated lectures on “let go and let God” (I still have no idea what that means); we spent 30 minutes looking at a red square projected on a screen (it gave me a headache); and we went to a local acupuncture place where they plugged extra electric current into the needles to give us extra ‘chi’ (I felt like I was being cooked for dinner). Since rehabilitation is a $ 50 billion industry, I felt this was a missed opportunity to use mind-body medicine in a way that was neither superficial nor trivial.

Formal mind-body therapies for drug addiction are rigorously studied

Fortunately, there are now several scientifically-based mind-body medicine options available for people who are recovering. Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) is a technique that uses meditation as well as cognitive approaches to prevent relapse. It aims to cultivate awareness of signals and triggers so that one does not instinctively turn to drug use. It also helps people to sit comfortable with unpleasant thoughts and emotions – their tolerance for distress, a person’s ability to tolerate emotional discomfort – without automatically escaping while taking medication. Improving tolerance for distress is a common theme in many, if not all, approaches to drug addiction recovery, as much of the appeal of drug use is about replacing bad emotion with bad emotion. good emotion – for example, using a drug.

Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) is another technique for combating addiction during recovery. MORE attempts to use both mindfulness and positive psychology to address the underlying distress that caused the addiction in the first place. There are three main pillars of MORE: it has been shown to help with distress tolerance; cue responsiveness (the way addicted people react to cues, such as seeing a bottle of prescription medicine, which often trigger cravings); and attentional bias (how an addicted brain will pay extra and selective attention to certain things, like a pack of cigarettes when you quit smoking).

Mindfulness-based addiction therapy (MBAT) is a technique that uses mindfulness to teach clients how to notice current emotions and sensations and how to break away from the urge to use drugs. It’s called “rushed surfing” and we’ve done it a lot in rehab. The goal is to break the automatic link between feeling uncomfortable, wanting to take drugs and, without thinking or thinking, taking medication to alleviate this discomfort.

Is there any good evidence of mind-body medicine healing approaches?

While there is promising research that body-mind treatments for drug addiction are effective, some of the research is contradictory. According to a meta-analysis in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, mindfulness is a positive intervention for substance use disorders, it has a significant but limited effect on reducing substance abuse, a substantial effect on reducing cravings and, most importantly, it is a treatment that has an important effect on reducing stress levels.

However, not all studies of mind-body medicine for addiction have shown overwhelmingly positive results. Some studies have shown that treatment gains decrease over time. Some randomized controlled trials have not shown that mind-body medicine is better than cognitive behavioral therapy for reducing alcohol and cocaine use or for abstaining from smoking.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has conducted an in-depth review of much of the current literature on mind-body medicine as it applies to addiction treatment, and has summarized the impact of some mind-body treatments such as follows:

  • Acupuncture is generally safe and can help with withdrawal, cravings, and anxiety, but there is little evidence that it has a direct impact on actual substance use.
  • There was some evidence that hypnotherapy improves smoking cessation.
  • Mindfulness-based interventions may reduce the use of substances such as alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, cigarettes, opiates, and amphetamines more than control therapies, and are also associated with reduced cravings. smoking and the risk of relapse. But the data from several studies is not solid.

Today, we need more and better evidence, and more definitive conclusions, on the ultimate usefulness of mind-body medicine to help treat addiction in different health settings. treatment. But a take-home message is that mindfulness-based treatments are certainly very effective as adjunct treatments for addiction, in that they can help people overcome anxiety, tolerance for distress, and their cravings, and they will prove to be very plausible in helping people drink or drink. drugs, and to avoid relapse, once they have successfully recovered.

Body-mind interventions to prevent addiction

If mind-body medicine can significantly reduce stress, it must be asked whether it can also help us prevent addiction by helping our society cope with the chronic and overwhelming stress it faces. Drug addiction is largely seen as a “disease of despair”. Important factors in addiction are untreated anxiety and depression, unresolved childhood trauma, social isolation, and low tolerance for distress. If we can all learn, or be trained, to be more attentive, grateful, present and connected, perhaps the need, and possibly the habit, of meeting our most basic needs with the false promise of a chemical that only wears out – and makes us worse – will become less of a problem in our society.

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Jothi Venkat

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