Evidence Supports Mindfulness for Addiction Therapy
Paying attention to one’s inner and outer experiences in a non-judgmental manner from moment to moment defines the concept of mindful meditation. Learning to focus attention on all the thoughts, feelings, and sensations surrounding a person at a given time, helps the individual become mindful of themselves, their environment and their actions.
At University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Center for Mindfulness, scientists believe meditation should be part of addiction recovery treatment. Their research has indicated that the brain rewires itself to accommodate addiction; these connections in the brain appear to be permanent. Researchers are discovering that the brain plays a powerful role in addiction and any addiction treatment that hopes to be effective will need to take this new research into consideration.
The Center for Mindfulness has concluded that the mindfulness approach is an effective treatment for nicotine addiction, with better results than many of the top anti-smoking programs.
Director of Research, Dr. Judson Brewer claims,
“We found mindfulness is actually twice as good as the American Lung Association’s gold-standard treatment. We are seeing a clear clinical signal here: It is helping people with addictions. What we found was interesting and a complete surprise to us, and different from other reports on meditation.”
Scientists found that the default mode network of the brain, that we default to when we’re multitasking or distracted, is also an area of the brain that becomes active when a smoker is craving a cigarette or an alcoholic a drink; this is similar to feeling hungry until the need is met by eating. This area became very quiet in experienced meditators, according to MRI study data; so quieting this network in the brain may help reduce cravings.
Addiction treatment should always be individualized and take into account that addiction changes the brain. Recovery is possible with some personal effort and the decision to change.