In the past generation, meditation has gone from being a fringe practice to a mainstream treatment in psychiatry and addiction treatment. A growing number of studies have confirmed the benefits of meditation in various drug and alcohol rehab contexts, leading to most residential rehabs implementing it as part of treatment. Many outpatient programs likewise include or encourage meditative practices today.
While times are changing, the undercurrent of macho culture still runs strong here in North Texas. Given that meditation and mindfulness practices seem antithetical to this code of machismo, drug and alcohol rehab centers in Dallas are no stranger to skepticism, hesitancy, or even outright hostility at the concept of meditation in addiction treatment.
However, many of these meditation skeptics may be unaware that they may already be practicing things that have meditative aspects. Things that they may already credit with improving their recovery.
Exercise, for instance, can have a meditative quality to it that can help with emotional regulation. Learning and playing musical instruments can be similarly meditative, as this activity requires intense mental focus. Even deep prayer could be considered a form of meditation.
And like the types of Eastern-influenced meditation often used in rehab centers, these other practices have also been linked to improvements in long-term addiction treatment outcomes.
It’s time to face the facts: meditation and other practices like it are not just things akin to magic or mysticism. There is hard scientific evidence showing that they have very real benefits for practitioners. Even the United States Marine Corps, an organization of men and women who are as tough as they come, use mindfulness meditation to improve mental toughness and help with emotional stresses associated with combat and its aftermath.
Some benefits of meditation for substance use disorder include the following:
1.) Better emotional regulation
People with drug and alcohol problems often exhibit problems dealing with their emotions. Even slightly uncomfortable situations can result in extreme emotional responses that make it difficult for patients to have therapy or resist cravings. Meditation is often used with psychotherapy to improve a patient’s ability to receive treatment.
2.) Better sleep quality
Poor sleep quality can exacerbate mental health issues and can even lead to a relapse if the individual has a depressant use disorder. Regular meditation can help with sleep problems without the individual needing additional medication, which can help make recovery a more comfortable process.
3.) Reduced depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms
These three conditions occur very frequently in people with substance use disorder, complicating treatment and contributing to a higher relapse risk. Fortunately, meditative practices are beneficial for improving symptoms of these conditions, which may ultimately aid a patient’s recovery.
4.) Improved focus
Habitual drug use can wreak havoc on a person’s attention span, which can hurt their ability to learn and hold down a job. Guided meditation can help bring back some of a person’s ability to focus without the aid of drugs, which has many positive implications for their quality of life.
5.) Improved empathy
Long-term drug use often makes it difficult to relate with others. Focused meditation can help make it easier for recovering individuals to understand other people’s perspectives.
6.) Reduced dependence on psychiatric drugs
A lot of people with drug and alcohol use disorders may be prescribed medication to help control co-occurring mental health issues. While often necessary, many of these medications also have addictive potential.
While there are no real substitutes for necessary psychiatric medications, regular meditation can go a long way to reducing how much antidepressants and anxiolytics a recovering individual might need. When combined with regular therapy and other supplementary activities like regular exercise, it can mean the difference between needing to take psychiatric medications daily, to having to just take them during infrequent emergencies.
While the science is mostly certain that meditation and other similar practices have real benefits, the specific processes at play are not yet well understood. Regular meditation is known to change the brain over time in a variety of different ways. This may be down to the fact that meditation could be considered to be a form of structured, active learning, where we are training our brains to make new connections.
While not all types of meditation are like this, most meditative practices require focusing on certain objects, situations, or emotions. Over time, this can help the brain be more selective about the type of information it chooses to use and may also stimulate the creation of fresh brain connections.
These are important points because people with substance use disorders will often have problems concentrating and regulating their emotions. This means they are more likely to act on emotional impulses even when they know these actions could be harmful. At the same time, substance use disorders and behavioral addictions have been linked to the creation of maladaptive pathways in the brain.
Thus, regular meditation may be helping people with addictions by not only helping them deal with emotions and cravings but also by helping them create entirely new connections in the brain that ultimately bypass the ones caused by addiction.
If you’re interested in a rehab program that uses meditative practices for addiction treatment, our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers is ready to help. Get in touch to find residential and outpatient programs in North Texas that offer meditation and other supplemental therapies.