Using Mindfulness to Fight Opioid Addiction

Using Mindfulness to Fight Opioid Addiction

by Shelby Wall

How often do you perform a task without thinking about what you’re doing? Everyone reverts to autopilot at some point in their day. They drive to work, eat their lunch or check their email, all while being distracted by a constant flow of random thoughts.

Distraction takes a toll on all of us. When we aren’t fully aware of what we’re doing or why we’re doing it, we open ourselves to unproductive days and destructive impulses. People with substance use disorders are particularly susceptible to thoughts and emotions that affect their self-control. That’s why addiction professionals have increasingly seen the value in using mindfulness to fight opioid addiction.

For those who have never practiced mindfulness, it can sound like a trite solution to a serious problem. However, the simplicity of mindfulness is perhaps its greatest strength. By being aware of how you feel and what you’re doing, you gain more control over your actions and open yourself up to a richer, more engaged life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a state of awareness. When you are mindful of what you’re doing, you’re not distracted by a stream of thoughts about what you need to do at work or what someone said that offended you. You are present in the moment, focusing on whatever task you’re doing.

As a concept, mindfulness is simple. As a practice, it’s more challenging. Distraction looms around every corner in our daily lives. People are constantly bombarded by intrusive, unhelpful thoughts. Mobile devices send never-ending notifications. Social media platforms make sure we always have something to draw our attention.

Mindfulness is the opposite of distraction, and it is the perfect antidote to everyday enemies of focus. One can be mindful of the meal they’re preparing or the dishes they are washing. Instead of mindlessly doing these tasks, distracted by all those thoughts that typically demand our attention, a person is conscious of each action they perform, fully engaged in the task.

Why Mindfulness is a State Worth Striving For

Because you face so many distractions, you are often living anywhere but the present moment. You aren’t fully aware of what you’re doing or how you feel. When you aren’t engaged in the task in front of you, you become automated. Buddhists call this the “monkey mind,” the state of being restless, confused, distracted or uncontrolled.

For people struggling with addiction, their monkey minds are fraught with impulses, urges and unconscious behaviors, all of which make giving into the temptation of substance use more likely. With mindfulness, people learn to be aware of how they are feeling and why they feel that way. This helps identify impulses to engage in unhealthy behaviors and refrain from acting in ways that aren’t in your best interest.

How to Improve Mindfulness

You can improve mindfulness in several ways. One of the most common methods to cultivate mindfulness is meditation. Though meditation is a broad term encompassing many different practices, basic mindfulness meditation often includes focusing on the breath and allowing thoughts to come and go without judgment.

Breathing exercises, mental body scans and yoga can effectively improve a person’s ability to be present in the moment and less influenced by unhelpful thoughts. Mindfulness practices offer several health benefits, including alleviating stress, depression, chronic pain and destructive impulses.

Using Mindfulness to Fight Opioid Addiction

Researchers have found evidence that mindfulness-based interventions are valuable in addiction treatment. Though this field is still new and less studied than other forms of treatment, addiction professionals have reasons to be optimistic about using mindfulness to fight opioid addiction.

A recent study from researchers at Rutgers University found that mindfulness practices can improve self-awareness and self-control. Participants in the study found mindfulness reduced cravings for opiates and increased pleasure derived from people, places and things that often fail to engage people suffering from addictions.

Treating Addiction Requires a Holistic Approach

When mindfulness and meditation first became popular in the United States, westerners were skeptical of its value. However, in contrast to a host of other new age treatments that have been studied and dismissed by the scientific community, mindfulness has proved its worth in countless studies.

Addiction treatment professionals understand that confronting addiction requires more than just treating the physical symptoms of a substance use disorder. Effective treatment requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses someone’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

If You Want Help, Contact South Miami Recovery

At South Miami Recovery, we believe in the importance of treating the whole person. Each of our clients has their own unique needs and preferences. We work with everyone to find the right path, providing several tools to help them in their recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about our services, we encourage you to contact us today to speak to our staff. We speak English and Spanish. Call South Miami Recovery at 305.661.0055.