Welcome to my blog---an eyes-open, no-holds-barred exploration of Western and Eastern spirituality, mindfulness, philosophy and literature. A member of the Australian and New Zealand Mental Health Association, I lectured at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry to mental health workers for 14 years and also lectured for 16 years at the University of Technology, Sydney. My interests include the psychology of religion, transformative ritual, mythology and addiction recovery.
Friday, September 26, 2014
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION CAN HELP REDUCE ADDICTION RELAPSE RATES
attention and activity, positively or negatively, is the cause of strife and pain. ... We know how the self is built up and
strengthened through the pleasure and pain principle, through memory, through
identification, and so on. ... Is not craving the very root of the self? ...’ J. Krishnamurti.
A new study strongly suggests that
mindfulness can be effective in preventing relapses of drug and alcohol abuse,
by helping people understand what drives cravings and better deal with the
discomfort created by cravings.
Researchers at the University of Washington studied 286 people who had successfully completed a substance abuse
treatment program, and randomly assigned them to one of three groups:
mindfulness meditation, a 12-step program, and a traditional relapse-prevention
The researchers found that a treatment
program that incorporates mindfulness meditation was more effective in
preventing relapses over the long term, compared with traditional addiction
treatment approaches. One year after treatment, about 9 per cent of
participants in the mindfulness program reported drug use, compared with 14 per
cent of those in a 12-step program, and 17 per cent in a traditional relapse-prevention
About 8 per cent of participants in
the mindfulness program also reported heavy drinking after one year, compared
with about 20 per cent in the other two groups. The findings were published
online on March 19, 2014 in the journalJAMA Psychiatry.
Researcher Dr Sarah Bowen [pictured left]
noted about 11 per cent of people in the United States with substance abuse
problems seek treatment annually, and between 40 to 60 per cent relapse. Many
traditional relapse prevention programs include a 12-step program that
emphasizes abstinence. Others are based on cognitive-behavioural therapy.
For my part, I don’t think I would
ever have recovered from alcoholism without the 12-step program and fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have sung its praises on my blog on quite a few occasions. I will
continue to do so. Since my recovery I have embraced mindfulness. I strongly
recommend a combination of the two when it comes to overcoming addiction, as well as seeking advice and assistance from health care professionals when necessary. Mindfulness is meditation, and the practice of meditation is consistent with the 12-step ‘philosophy’ which (in step 11) refers
to the need to engage in ‘prayer and meditation.’ After all, it’s a spiritual program.
Addiction is a physical, mental, and
spiritual disease. As respects the latter, the real bondage is to self. As Bill Wilson [pictured right], co-founder of AA, put it, ‘Selfishness--self-centeredness!
That, we think, is the root ofourtroubles.’ And as I’ve said
many times, only a power-not-oneself
can free the addict from bondage to the self. The self can’t do that, because
it is the damn problem. I often quote these wonderfully insightful words from Archbishop William Temple: ‘For the trouble is that we are
self-centered, andno effort of
the selfcan remove the self from
the centre of its own endeavour.’ So true.
Mindfulness is a
powerful proven means of breaking
down the bondage of self. Mindfulness is true meditation because it is the most
natural form of meditation and the only one that keeps you in direct and immediate contact with what is. ‘True meditation,’ wrote the Indian spiritual philosopher J. Krishnamurti, ‘is not self-expansion
in any form. ... Only
through your own strenuous awareness is there the comprehension of the real,
Resource: Bowen S, Witkiewitz K, Clifasefi S L, Grow J, Chawla
N, Hsu S H, Carroll H A, Harrop E, Collins S E, Lustyk M K, and Larimer M
Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Standard Relapse Prevention,
and Treatment as Usual for Substance Use Disorders: A Randomized
Clinical Trial.’ JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;
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