| Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain and Opioid Dependency
Mindfulness Works Independent of Opioid Neurotransmitter Mechanisms
| Effective management of pain is a major medical challenge in our country at the present time. An estimated 11.2% of the U.S. adult population suffers from chronic pain and the economic cost of pain is well over half a trillion dollars a year.
Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Unfortunately, according to a recent NIH report, 40% to 70% of people with chronic pain are not actually receiving proper medical treatment for their pain. In cases where opioids are necessary, there is growing concern among experts about the over- and under- pharmacological treatment of chronic pain.
Recent medical studies have been able to demonstrate the positive effects meditation can have on the mind. Experienced meditation practitioners have reported a wide range of benefits including but not limited to stress relief, improved focus, and pain relief. Many believed that this pain relief meant that meditation could stimulate the opiate receptors in the brain by releasing natural endorphin. A recent clinical trial casts doubt of those theories.
Today, there is widespread abuse of prescription opiates that are structurally similar to heroin. Recently, the first time-release painkiller Oxycontin hit the market and many believe it to be at the center of the rising numbers of Americans seeking treatment for opiate addiction and dependence.
In 1991, American doctors wrote 76 million prescriptions for opioids to treat pain. By 2012, this number had skyrocketed to 259 million opioid prescriptions. A staggering 80% of all opioid prescriptions worldwide are written in the United States. The uptick in the use of opiate-based painkillers in the past decade created millions of opioid-addicts. Many of these people turned to heroin when they could no longer refill their prescriptions or afford black-market pain pills.
On March 22, 2016, the CDC Issued a New Guideline for Prescribing Opioids.
Mindfulness Meditation can literally change brain structure
A previous Harvard MRI study provided evidence of meditation’s cognitive benefits; and demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can literally change brain structure. These changes included increased density of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is associated with memory, feelings and self awareness. Some patients scans also revealed a decrease in the density of the amygdala. This change was observed in patients who said they experienced stress relief.
Mindfulness Meditation also helps relieve pain; but researchers have been unclear about how the practice induces pain relief. Specifically, if meditation is associated with the release of naturally occurring opiates. Results from a new study, funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, demonstrate that mindfulness meditation does not rely on the endogenous opioid activity to reduce pain
Mindfulness Meditation and Chronic Pain Study
This is an important consideration for using meditation to treat chronic pain. The new study, conducted by researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
The study gave some participants Naltrexone (an opioid receptor blocker) and a placebo to another group. Then they split the two groups in half having one meditate during the experiment and telling the other simply to close their eyes and try to relax. Then they were subjected to painful heat stimuli. Those in the groups that meditated, including most importantly the group that also received Naltrexone, reported much lower levels of pain unpleasantness and intensity.
Mindfulness Meditation Does Not Rely on Opioid Activity to Reduce Pain
“Previous research has shown that mindfulness meditation helps relieve pain, but researchers have been unclear about how the practice induces pain relief. Specifically, if meditation is associated with the release of naturally occurring opiates. Results from a new study, funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, demonstrate that mindfulness meditation does not rely on the endogenous opioid activity to reduce pain.”
Imaging studies show that mindfulness soothes the brain patterns underlying pain and, over time, these changes take root and alter the structure of the brain itself. After doing regular meditation, patients say they no longer feel pain with the same intensity. Many say that they barely notice it at all.
Hospital pain clinics now prescribe mindfulness meditation to help patients cope with the suffering arising from a wide range of diseases such as cancer (and the side effects of chemotherapy), heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. It is also used for back problems, migraine, fibromyalgia, coeliac disease, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and even multiple sclerosis.
Read more at: Psychology Today: Mindfulness Meditation Provides Pain Relief Without Opioids
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s website: Mindfulness Meditation Relieves Pain, but Works Differently Than Opioids in the Body
Chronic Pain Relief and Opioid Addiction Recovery
The implications of this study are tremendous news for people suffering from chronic pain and or opioid addiction and dependence. For those who are now suffering with pain or addiction – meditation is an invaluable tool.
Mindfulness Meditation is one of many tools we make available to our clients at Arrowhead Lodge.
Mindfulness Meditation in Addiction Recovery, Arrowhead Lodge Recovery
Meditation training starts with breathing exercises and builds from there. Meditation can done be in a group or solo. It may include music or not; and is practiced indoors and out.
Some of the benefits of meditation include:
- Quicker recovery of brain functions
- Improved sleep
- Improved physiological functions
- Better concentration
- Decrease in symptoms of depression
- Reduction in anxiety symptoms
- Relapse prevention
- Better coping skills
As an Arrowhead Lodge Recovery client you will learn how to meditate in a style that works for you. You will find that meditation brings a deep sense of calm and serenity and provides a simple, lasting and effective solution for life stressors.
Meditation and Alcoholics Anonymous
Mindfulness is the foundation of the 10th Step of Alcoholics Anonymous; and is one of the maintenance Steps. According to the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, recovery is based on the daily maintenance of inner spiritual condition and personal spiritual experience. This also includes Steps 10, 11 and 12.
The 11th step of twelve step programs specifically refers to “prayer and meditation” as a way to improve awareness and personal experience of the Spiritual. The benefits are many for only five minutes or more of practice a day.
Questions? Need a safe place to explore your core addiction issues?
Contact Arrowhead Lodge Recovery, 888-654-2800
This article, written by Kenneth Chance, originally appeared on https://www.arrowheadlodgerecovery.com/new-study-mindfulness-meditation-reduces-pain/ Kenneth Chance is the founder and CEO/President of Arrowhead Lodge Recovery.
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