Mindfulness may help reduce opioid cravings, chronic pain

In a new study, researchers found people suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain may have fewer cravings and less pain if they use both mindfulness techniques and medication for opioid dependence.

The research was conducted by a team from Rutgers and elsewhere.

The team examined the effects of mindfulness and methadone therapy on 30 patients with opioid addiction and chronic pain.

Mindfulness is the meditative practice of focusing on the present moment and accepting one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, without judgment.

The team showed that those who received methadone and a mindfulness training-based intervention were 1.3 times better at controlling their cravings and had significantly greater improvements in pain, stress, and positive emotions, even though they were aware of more cravings than those who only received standard methadone treatment and counseling.

The team says methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) has been an effective form of medication treatment for opioid use disorder.

However, nearly half of individuals on MMT continue to use opioids during treatment or relapse with six months.

Many of those with opioid addictions experience chronic pain, anxiety, and depression while on methadone maintenance, which is why mindfulness-based, non-drug interventions are promising treatments.

The researchers suggest mindfulness-based interventions could help people dependent on opioids increase their self-awareness and self-control over cravings and be less reactive to emotional and physical pain.

People with an opioid addiction could also be taught to change their negative thoughts and savor pleasant events, which may help them to regulate their emotions and experience more enjoyments.

One author of the study is Associate Professor Nina Cooperman.

The study is published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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