Drug Addiction and Mindfulness Meditation
Drug addiction can be dealt with through mindfulness meditation. Like Alcoholics Anonymous and its spiritually based 12-step programme, mindfulness meditation has its roots from religious practices. This time around, it was derived from meditation practices of Buddhist Vipassana.
This type of meditation serves as the keystone of the psychotherapy treatment known as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme. The MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of mindfulness meditation as used in Western medicine) back in 1979.
It’s supposed to teach patients who have chronic physical and mental health problems the secret to improving their lives.
Describing Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation can be practised in a group setting where you can share your experiences with one another and provide mutual support as you continue the practice. You can also practise mindfulness meditation by yourself as it is not too difficult to do.
Meditation requires you to be patient with yourself because the mind’s nature is to be active. It’s not easy to go from following idle thoughts to focusing only on your breath. You can take your consciousness at the back seat. It doesn’t need to drive your car. Keep this in mind as you attempt to find your centre of calm or disappear into “The Moment”.
Meanwhile, mindfulness according to Kabat-Zinn is paying attention in a specific way:
- Being Mindful on Purpose:You should be mindful on purpose and have a presence of mind at the current moment. You should not make assumptions or biases about the process of being mindful of yourself, your thoughts, and your body.
- Awareness and Acceptance: This mindfulness should encourage you to be aware and accept various bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings as they come about. You should also acknowledge the impermanence of feelings.
- Not About Modification or Suppression: Practitioners of mindfulness are trained to recognise and accept their experiences instead of suppressing or modifying them.
- Attentional Control or Reperceiving: Changing your relationship into present-moment experience is known as attentional control or reperceiving. Reperceiving facilitates more mindfulness in your choices in behaviour.
- Independent of Cultural or Religious Background: Although it has religious roots, the mindfulness set of skills can be taught regardless of cultural or religious background.
Forms of Mindfulness Meditation Interventions
There are multiple forms and varieties of mindfulness interventions. They include:
- 1. MBSR: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is currently applied as adjunctive therapy for wide-ranging disorders and conditions. This is how it increasingly found a way to becoming addiction treatment.
- 2. MBCT: Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is a psychotherapy approach or treatment that was originally developed for the sake of preventing relapse for depression by making the person become more mindful and self-aware.
- 3. ACT: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a psychotherapy technique, clinical behaviour analysis (CBA), or cognitive-behaviour therapy. ACT is about helping people open up to unpleasant feelings and not overreacting to them. It’s also about avoiding situations where unpleasant feelings are invoked.
- 4. MBRP: Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention is about using recent modifications of mindfulness approaches developed specifically to keep addicts from relapsing during and after rehabilitation treatment.
- 5. MBTC: Mindfulness-Based Therapeutic Community treatment is also a type of mindfulness meditation therapy developed in particular for populations who are substance abusers. It specifically combines group therapy with mindfulness therapy techniques.
History of Western Medicine’s Adaptation of Mindfulness Meditation
So why has the medical community taken a keen interest over meditation and its effects on fighting against substance abuse relapse? Isn’t it something that’s unscientific and has roots to spirituality and religion?
The reason for its rising popularity in drug rehabilitation is because mindfulness has proven its mettle in helping the psychological aspect of addiction recovery. “Wherever You Go, There You Are” is a best-selling book about meditation by Kabat-Zinn.
On paper, it’s easier said than done to overcome addiction and relapses by mindfulness meditation, especially once you experience the power of drugs and how it alters the chemicals in your brain firsthand. Most addicts attempt to go somewhere else mentally and emotionally.
The addict’s mind is typically focused on how to get its substance of choice by taking the steps to get it, using it, then recovering from its direct and side effects. This is true whether the specific type of attachment or addiction is for:
The lack of present self-awareness on the part of the addict comes from their hyper-focus and near obsession with their object of addiction. There’s little to no time spent in noticing the present except to attempt and alter your experience.
The present is all about finding a way to get rid of your agitation. Mindfulness is defined as non-judgmental awareness of what’s happening to you in the present. It’s your judgmental attitude that leads to overreactions to your feelings and thoughts.
What Mindfulness Meditation Actually Entails
Mindfulness meditation usually starts after three weeks of detoxification and battling withdrawal. In other words, it’s used around the time when you start feeling a measure of physical relief.
Prior to rehabilitation, you’re usually preoccupied with drug and/or alcohol abuse. After detoxification, you need to overcome the anxiety of becoming an addict in the first place.
It’s mainly applied for the sake of helping the mental health of the addict. Long-term recovery typically involves mindfulness meditation group gatherings and instructions like the following:
- Avoiding Thinking That You’re Cornered: Many addicts overreact to their altered brain state due to drug abuse, leading them towards obsessive behaviour that results in a negative feedback loop of sorts. They react negatively to situations where they’re cornered and unable to escape. There’s a stress response there that worsens rather than improves your chances of addiction recovery.
Mindfulness meditation helps them avoid thinking that they’re cornered or indulging in idle, self-destructive thoughts. The negative thinking of drug or alcohol addicts is particularly pronounced. You should be more objective or neutral about the feelings you’re experiencing. The more relaxed and neutral you are about these feelings, the less rash and impulsive you’ll react towards them.
- Negative Thinking Makes Your Situation Worse: You should be self-aware of your situation but you shouldn’t overthink your way into dilemmas with paranoia and whatnot. This will only make your circumstances worse by adding invented nonexistent problems on top of your present problems. You need to be mindful, aware, and prudent of your situation.
Panicking or giving into your thoughts and feelings can exacerbate your addiction. It’s even a natural consequence of addiction “designed” to ensure your psychological dependence towards drugs or alcohol. It’s the logical leaps of drug-addled compulsion that drives you to solve your problems caused by substance abuse with more substance abuse.
- Learning to Tolerate Unpleasantness: During the post-detoxification stage of your early recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to develop a mental tolerance towards unpleasantness. Before you act and give in to the impulses of your mind, you should learn to tolerate strong emotion.
Relapses occur psychologically because when you hit rock bottom from addiction, your response or overreaction to feelings of guilt and helplessness could lead you back to drinking or taking drugs. When you learn to be mindful and have a neutral response towards such feelings, it’s one of the most valuable skills you can acquire towards your road to recovery.
- Group Session of Mindfulness Meditation: While undergoing meditation together as a group, you’re led by a meditation guide of sorts. You await his instructions. The whole process usually begins with ringing a bell signifying the start of 15-minutes of silence.
The sound of the bell will help get you into a meditative mode. This is because once it stops ringing, you need to be aware of the moment when the bell’s sound actually disappears. You should then develop presence of mind of what’s going on in the present time and then focus solely on that.
- Breathing Exercises and Reaching Tranquillity: After you come into contact with your centre of calm after the bell stops ringing then you’re focused with what’s happening in the present. It’s at this point that the meditation guide tells you to connect with your breath and concentrate on it instead of your idle thoughts. This will help you sink into the tranquillity of mindfulness.
Your meditation guide will then further help you along your time of peacefulness with gentle reminders to concentrate on the sound of your breathing. This will assist you in feeling a sense of peace and purpose. It’s supposed to clear your mind from the distractions of impulse, relapse symptoms, and psychological baggage that might have led you towards addiction in the first place.
- Disappearing into “The Moment”: For many addicts, mindfulness meditation training can help them achieve a sense of peace that has eluded them for their entire lifetime. The idea here is to keep quiet, concentrate on your breathing to keep yourself from being distracted by unpleasant feelings and thoughts, and allowing the guide’s words to herd you towards peacefulness.
When you’re focused and in the zone, so to speak, you’ll hesitate less and become less impulsive. Your brain will produce less cortisol that’s made during times of stress. Because you’re in a more relaxed state, cortisol will not inhibit your body as much and there’s less of a stress response characterised by aggravation. Your head will clear and allow you to do what’s necessary to recover. Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with memory and learning as well as interfere with your immune function.
- Results After the Session: After the session is over and done correctly, you should feel like years or decades of emotional turbulence from drug or alcohol addiction wash away. Like the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders. According to recovering addicts who have undergone this technique, they feel like their heads are lighter and their thinking is more sharp and focused.
Your body will also feel more at ease due to the relaxed feeling given to you by meditation. Usually (not always), drugs and alcohol serve as a means to escape from your current mental state. Meditation helps fill that hole in a more positive manner that alcohol and drugs can’t. It gives you a longer lasting relief in the mind versus the temporary satisfaction of inebriation.
- More Profound and Organic Relief: The relief offered by mindfulness meditation is more profound and organic compared to the euphoria you get from drugs and alcohol. By sticking through the mindfulness meditation meetings, you can maintain sobriety and clear-mindedness for the long-term.
Some former rehabilitation patients have even taken to meditating during the morning without the need for a guru. Just 15-20 minutes of meditation can work wonders on your mental health.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Acceptance and acknowledging the truth about yourself after you’ve become an addict to
drugs and alcohol is a powerful act. Knowing how to react to the truth and not be overrun
by your emotions from reacting to it can lead to you having more control over your life.
Mindfulness meditation typically involves the following effects:
- Detached observation
- A measure of spiritual awareness
- Awareness of the contents of consciousness
- Powerful cognitive behavioural coping strategy
- Transformation of the way you respond to life events
By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can enjoy the following benefits:
- Stress reduction
- Anxiety therapy
- Better immune function
- Decreased sense of self-pity
- Increased sense of self-compassion
- Potential for affective disorders and relapse prevention
How Does Mindfulness Meditation Help You Out with Addiction?
Meditating in order to learn how to deal with and acknowledge uncomfortable feelings without overreacting to them or reacting on them by autopilot is the goal of mindfulness meditation training.
In other words, achieving self-awareness can serve as a tool in addiction treatment. In particular, it helps a person in dealing with:
- Bad habits
- Side effects
- Negative response
- Aiddictive behaviours
It’s ironic, but accepting and tolerating the present moment without attempting to judge, alter your perception of it, or change it can lead to you having the wherewithal to make the required changes in your life. For addicts, unpleasant emotions might arise from their modified behaviours such as helplessness and loss of impulse control over their conscious and unconscious actions.
Medical Community Studies on Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness doesn’t only enrich your existing spiritual life. It can also empower you with a powerful tool to confront impulses, negative thoughts, and cravings related to your past with drugs and alcohol. In short, it helps give you the willpower and mind power to resist against relapse symptoms, leading to healthier responses and behaviours.
- Prison Study: According to “Mindfulness Meditation and Substance Use in an Incarcerated Population”, the participants of the Vipassana Meditation course showed significant reductions in crack cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol relapse compared to the regular treatment without meditation. The participants also showcased higher numbers of positive psychosocial outcomes and lower numbers of alcohol-related complications and psychiatric problems.
- Research Paper: According to the findings of the “Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation” research paper, a short mindfulness meditation programme does offer demonstrable results on the brain and immune system function of the patient. The findings show that meditation can boost your immune system, normalise brain function, and reduce your stress. It can even reduce cortisol levels, which indicates how much stress you’re currently feeling.
- Anecdotal Evidence: According to the personal experiences of ex-addicts who have undergone mindfulness meditation meetings, the service does provide sobriety through a more mindful response to unpleasant feelings, stress relief, lowered anxiety levels, lucid thought in previously unknown levels, and the ability to act, react, work, and feel better.
Mindfulness Meditation: Spirituality, Recovery and Overall Health
Medical research doesn’t cover the spiritual aspect of mindfulness meditation much since that’s not an exact or measurable metric. It should still be acknowledged that like with the 12-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, spirituality is a huge part of meditation and its ability to impart, maintain, and induce healthy recovery among alcohol and drug addicts.
Meditation can serve as your personal pillar for your spiritual foundation. As far as medical research is concerned, however, the main benefit of mindfulness meditation comes from how it fights against a mental spiral of negative thought and addictive behaviours.
Balanced emotional responses allow you to decrease your stress level because you’re withholding the stress response. This is important because addictive behaviour and substance abuse are often triggered by anxiety and stress. Additionally, when you choose to respond neutrally rather than judgmentally to your thoughts and feelings, you can increase your self-compassion and lower your self-pity.
Addiction Treatment Programme at The Dawn Rehab in Thailand
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