Many people who undergo treatment for addiction will relapse and begin to use drugs again when their therapy and treatment has ended. Although, a new study suggests that meditation techniques may help prevent such a relapse.
In the study, 286 people who had been treated for substance abuse were assigned to receive one of three therapies after their initial treatment: a program that involved only group discussions, a "relapse- prevention" therapy that involved learning to avoid situations where they might be tempted to use drugs, and a mindfulness-based program that involved meditation sessions to improve self-awareness.
Six months later, participants in the both the relapse prevention and mindfulness group had a reduced risk of relapsing to using drugs or heavy drinking compared with participants in the group discussions group.
And after one year, participants in the mindfulness group reported fewer days of drug use, and were at reduced risk of heavy drinking compared with those in the relapse prevention group. This result suggests that the mindfulness-based program may have a more enduring effect, the researchers said.
The researchers emphasized that mindfulness-based programs are not intended to replace standard programs for preventing drug relapse.
Meditation for addiction
About 40 to 60 percent of people who undergo addiction treatment relapse within one year after their treatment ends, the researchers said.
In this program, each session is about two hours, with 30 minutes of guided meditation followed by discussions about what people experienced during meditation and how it relates to addiction or relapse, Bowen said. The meditation sessions are intended to bring heightened attention to things that patients usually ignore, such as how it feels to eat a bite of food, or other bodily sensations, as well as thoughts and feelings.
The mindfulness program may work to prevent relapse in part because it makes people more aware of what happens when they have cravings.