Friday, September 26, 2014


‘Self-centred 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 program.

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 program.

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 journal JAMA 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 of our troubles.’ 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, and no effort of the self can 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, the permanent.’

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 E. ‘Relative Efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention, Standard Relapse Prevention, and Treatment as Usual for Substance Use DisordersA Randomized Clinical Trial.’ JAMA Psychiatry. 2014; 71(5):547-556. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4546.


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