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The Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation in Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a difficult issue that may have far-reaching effects on a person’s life, keeping them stuck in a rut of self-destructive habits. Although conventional addiction therapy focuses on detoxing the body, a growing body of evidence shows that mental practices like meditation and mindfulness may be just as effective. Addicts may learn to control their urges, lower their stress levels, and finally beat their addiction by practicing mindfulness and increasing their awareness of the here and now.

Millions of individuals suffer from the terrible impacts of addiction each year. The family and friends of the patient suffer as well from the effects of this disease. Addiction may have negative effects on a person’s physical and emotional well-being, relationships, employment opportunities, and financial stability.

Addiction rehabilitation is a multifaceted process that often necessitates a change in one’s way of living as well as the assistance of medical professionals. Mindfulness and meditation have been found to reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol.(1)

As more people look for effective treatments for their addictions, the popularity of practices like meditation and mindfulness has risen. We’ll examine the advantages of mindfulness and meditation for those in recovery from addiction as well as the many available addiction treatment programs that are based on these practices.

The Science Behind Mindfulness and Meditation For Addiction Recovery

Addiction is connected to long-term alterations in the brain’s reward system. Substance abuse increases dopamine levels in the brain, which increases pleasure. When the brain eventually adapts to the modifications, a larger dose of the medication is required to get the same effect. As a result of this disruption, the brain’s reward system is compromised, making it more challenging to control one’s impulses and avoid temptation.

Research has linked mindfulness practices like meditation and being in the present moment to reduced cravings and improved regulation of the brain’s reward system. Mindfulness and meditation practitioners may see greater activity in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for controlling impulses and making choices, with continued practice. Mindfulness and meditation have been found to improve emotional regulation and reduce negative affect, which are both factors that can contribute to substance use.(2)

When individuals commit to an exercise routine, it may be simpler for them to cut down on unhealthy foods and vices. Mindfulness and meditation both increase activity in the insula, a brain area critical for self-awareness and emotional control. Increased physical activity has been linked to enhanced emotional awareness and regulation.

Explanation Of How Mindfulness And Meditation Can Help Regulate The Brain’s Reward System And Reduce Cravings

By cultivating one’s capacity for self-awareness and inner calm, one might considerably lessen the likelihood of becoming an addiction. Addiction recovery may be especially challenging for those with anxiety and stress disorders who turn to addictive drugs for relief. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system may be helpful since it helps reduce tension and anxiety. Meditation and other practices aimed at increasing awareness may be helpful.

Mindfulness and meditation have been shown to have various benefits, including aiding in the struggle against addiction. Situations where:

  • Paying close attention to one’s breath and the bodily sensations it produces is a great way to cultivate mindfulness and alleviate stress.
  • Research suggests that persons who regularly engage in “body scan meditation,” in which they carefully scan their bodies from head to toe while being present to any feelings that may arise, report feeling more connected to their bodies and experiencing less stress.
  • A more optimistic view on life and a reduction in stressful emotions have both been connected to the practice of meditation with the purpose of becoming more loving and compassionate toward oneself and others.
  • Researchers have found that practicing “mindful walking,” or paying attention to where one’s feet are and what one sees around them, might help individuals feel less stressed and more in the moment.
  • Regular yoga practitioners are more likely to experience the health advantages, stress reduction, and self-awareness that come with the practice.
  • Five- to ten-minute sessions are a good place to start, and you may work up to longer ones as you develop confidence. Choose a place where you won’t be disturbed while you practice. There are a lot of digital tools that might help people become more attentive and meditate.

Mindfulness-based interventions have been found to improve treatment outcomes for individuals with substance use disorders.(3)

Evidence-Based Studies Supporting The Effectiveness Of Mindfulness And Meditation In Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga may play a significant role in helping addicts in recovery.

  • Reducing stress and anxiety, two major risk factors for addictive behavior, may be aided by practicing mindfulness and meditation. If this is the case, you may be less likely to put yourself in harm’s way.
  • It has been suggested that practices like meditation and mindfulness might help people understand their emotions and develop self-control, so lowering their need on potentially dangerous drugs.
  • Studies have revealed that those who regularly engage in meditative practices like mindfulness report significantly higher levels of self-awareness and introspection.

How To Use Mindfulness and Meditation in Addiction Recovery?

Several different types of meditation and attention training have been shown to be helpful in the battle against substance abuse. Such activities may aid in cultivating a greater sense of presence in the present moment, gaining objective knowledge of one’s own motivations and character traits, and finally achieving a state of happiness and fulfilment within oneself. Some common practices for introspection and stress reduction are as follows:

  • A fundamental aspect of establishing a regular practice of mindful breathing is paying attention to the feeling of breathing in and out. If you realize that you have stopped paying attention to your breathing, bring it back.
  • While practicing body scan meditation, one is instructed to pay close attention to bodily sensations when resting (lying down or sitting). Some benefits of this approach include increased bodily awareness and lessened stress.
  • The cultivation of compassion and kindness via the practice of loving-kindness meditation necessitates self- and other-respectful speech and thought.
  • Yoga and tai chi are two examples of meditative movement in which the practitioner is encouraged to focus on his or her internal experience while he or she moves the body.

Try to remember that the advantages of meditation and mindfulness are not universal. Individuals need to try out various strategies until they discover what works best for them. Practicing mindfulness and meditation on a daily basis can be done in a number of different ways, such as by setting aside a specific amount of time, incorporating it into otherwise mundane activities like going for a walk or taking a shower, or by using one of the many guided meditations that are readily available via mobile apps and the internet.

Beginning exercisers should ease into their routine by beginning with shorter, less strenuous exercises before progressing to longer, more difficult ones. When practiced without preconceived preconceptions or the expectation of instant results, mindfulness and meditation are at their most useful.

Benefits Of Mindfulness and Meditation In Addiction Recovery

Mounting scientific evidence suggests that those in recovery from addiction may benefit from engaging in mindfulness practices like meditation.

  • Both mindfulness and meditation have been shown to lessen feelings of stress and worry, which are all too frequent yet may have negative health consequences ranging from compromised immune function to addiction.
  • By increasing self-awareness and strengthening existing coping mechanisms, mindfulness and meditation enhance one’s capacity to regulate unpleasant emotions and inhibit impulsive behavior. Others have hypothesized that this trend may be related to the increasing popularity of meditation and mindfulness.
  • Meditation and other forms of mindfulness training have the potential to foster more self-awareness and introspection, which in turn may assist addicts get a better grasp of their condition and teach them more effective means of dealing with it. Studies show that developing one’s capacity for introspection and mindfulness improves with regular meditation and mindfulness practice.
  • Reduced inflammation, improved sleep, and lessened chronic pain are just some of the physiological benefits of mindfulness and meditation practices. This is good for both our physical and mental well-being.

Mindfulness and Meditation-Based Addiction Treatment Programs

Several methods of addiction treatment center on mindfulness-based therapies like meditation. In this category you’ll find both Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP). Common elements of such programs include mindfulness training, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and group therapy. Mindfulness and meditation have been found to improve overall quality of life for individuals in recovery from substance use disorders.(4)

Results indicate that these programs have the potential to enhance the health and decrease the drug use of their participants. Patients who received MBRP also reported significantly fewer days of drug use and lower levels of desire after treatment ended, in comparison to those who received standard relapse prevention therapy. This was the case even though the therapeutic dose was same in both groups.


Some studies have shown that practices like meditation and awareness of one’s present moment might be helpful for recovering addicts. Better coping strategies have been related to mindfulness and meditation, and this correlation is only likely to improve with time. Good coping skills may be fostered by engaging in these pursuits, which have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, increase emotional regulation, foster more self-awareness and empathy, and moderate the brain’s reward system.


  1. Goldberg SB, Pace B, Griskaitis M, et al. Mindfulness-based interventions for substance use disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;10(10):CD011723. Published 2021 Oct 20. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011723.pub2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8527365/?report=classic
  2. Schuman-Olivier Z, Trombka M, Lovas DA, et al. Mindfulness and Behavior Change. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2020;28(6):371-394. doi:10.1097/HRP.0000000000000277 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7647439/?report=classic
  3. Goldberg SB, Pace B, Griskaitis M, et al. Mindfulness-based interventions for substance use disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;10(10):CD011723. Published 2021 Oct 20. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD011723.pub2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8527365/?report=classic
  4. Buric I, Farias M, Driessen JMA, Brazil IA. Individual differences in meditation interventions: A meta-analytic study. Br J Health Psychol. 2022;27(3):1043-1076. doi:10.1111/bjhp.12589 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9543193/?report=classic

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 13, 2023

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