Meditation may reduce drug user relapse
Between 40 and 60 percent of people who receive treatment for drug addiction have a relapse within a year. But research at the University of Washington suggests that mindfulness-based meditation may help drug users avoid falling back into addiction. relapse after completing addiction treatment. About 40 to 60 percent of people who undergo treatment relapse within one year after the treatment ends.
The study looked at 286 people who had been treated for substance abuse and assigned them 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.
Mindfulness-based relapse prevention, a program developed by Sarah Bowen, an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is a two-hour session, with 30 minutes of guided meditation followed by discussions about what people experienced during meditation and how it relates to addiction or relapse. Bowen calls it “training in awareness.”
Six months after the participants began their respective therapies, those in both the relapse prevention and mindfulness group had a reduced risk of relapsing to using drugs or heavy drinking compared with people participating only in group discussions. 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.
Future studies are needed to examine the effectiveness of the therapy for substance abuse over longer periods.