Is the answer as simple as meditation for addiction recovery?
Substance abuse and addiction disorders are complex diseases that require a detailed and varied treatment plan, as well as a deep lifelong commitment to sobriety. One of the most important steps in addiction treatment and recovery is to determine the root cause of the problem.
Many times, emotional issues, such as fear, depression, or anxiety trigger substance abuse problems, so addressing the issue and finding healthy ways to cope are critical steps for success.
Scientists used to believe that the brain could not be altered after childhood, and the ability to learn was limited. However, we now know that changing one’s thought processes can actually alter the brain, and adults can reap the benefits for many years to come.
Meditation for Addiction Recovery
One tool that has been shown to help break the cycle of destructive thoughts is meditation. Meditation is a practice dating back thousands of years, that helps develop concentration, clarity, and emotional stability by focusing on the mind-body connection. Beginning a mindfulness meditation practice helps you examine your thoughts, feelings, and experiences to carefully act upon them.
Although many people have the perception that meditation requires hours of time each day, to be effective, research shows that as little as a couple of hours a week can provide endless benefits. So, how can you use meditation for addiction?
Here are several ways that meditation helps retrain the brain during recovery and beyond:
Meditation releases dopamine
Dopamine is the brain’s “feel-good” brain chemical that is released when an addict uses. On the flip side, addicts craving a fix have very low amounts of dopamine in their brains, which reinforces the dangerous cycle of addiction.
In one study, researchers found that participants’ dopamine levels were boosted by 65 percent during meditation. Perhaps even more importantly, their dopamine levels remained at a healthy range afterward.
Meditation helps to recognize and control urges
Meditation is the practice of conscious thought examination through stillness or acknowledging our thoughts in moments of stillness. People struggling with substance abuse or addiction are often controlled by their thoughts and urges to use; meditation helps loosen the stranglehold by simply observing these thoughts, rather than trying to suppress them.
Detaching from these urges and downgrading them, categorizing them as any other thought makes them lose their power.
Meditation reduces stress
Stress is a major factor in substance abuse, addiction, and relapse. When we don’t find healthy outlets for stress release, it takes a toll on our minds and our bodies, making us more vulnerable and setting recovering addicts up for failure.
Meditation, however, helps shift our brain chemistry from fight or flight mode, so reaching for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or food to self-medicate is no longer tempting or necessary. During meditation, the body stops releasing adrenaline and cortisol, which are stress hormones, helping you stay positive, calm, and focused.
Meditation helps address deep-rooted issues that cause addiction
People who struggle with substance abuse disorders are often trying to self-medicate for other issues. If you feel like you’ve lost control of your life or lack purpose, meditating helps you live consciously and mindfully, restoring balance and purpose.
Combined with other treatment tools, such as therapy, inpatient or outpatient rehab, healthy living habits, and withdrawal symptom management, mediation can play a huge role in recovery.
Mediation helps with overall health
In addition to the psychological benefits outlined above, mediation has proven physiological benefits including reduced blood pressure, improved circulation, pain relief, and improved immunity.
Substance abuse and addiction disorders require a customized treatment plan. For more information on meditation and addiction, or if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact one of our trained specialists, today.