Mindfulness-based treatments may be changing the way we help those suffering from addiction. With nearly 24 million Americans struggling with drug and alcohol addition, finding treatment that works isn't just needed it's absolutely necessary.
So what is mindfulness-based treatment and how does it work? In an article published on the huffingtonpost.com, it's explained as an eight-week, group-based program with 8 to 15 people meeting for two hours a week. It was developed at the University of Washington, and it's specifically for those who have been through detox and stabilization who are in recovery and have a system clear of drugs. The treatment is modeled after mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, the article explains, which is used to treat depression, as well as mindfulness-based stress reduction. It targets the main predictors or relapse: negative emotions and cravings. And it's proven effective for those with the lowest recovery rates, such as crack cocaine and opiate addiction. A 2014 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found those with substance abuse and drinking problems showed a lower risk of relapse once they had been introduced to mindfulness-based treatments.
The program works because it focuses on "noticing what kind of problematic thoughts might arise and actually writing them down and becoming familiar with them. It's about practicing very applied skills for day-to-day living."
The focus is to "shift the individual's relationship to discomfort," the article says. If someone is sad, lonely, bored, depressed, something inside of them triggers a craving for substance use. The program's basis is to notice when these cravings arise and to relate to them in a new and different way. "It's helping people become really aware of what's happening in their minds. Once they see that, they have a choice and they have some freedom. We're trying to teach people to become experts on themselves so they can see these processes unfolding and how they lead to places they don't want to go," explains Dr. Sarah Bowen. She goes on to say, "So the approach is, 'Hey, we're all human, it's really hard to be human, and we're doing our best.' Sometimes we don't know how to make ourselves happy, but we're all trying. It's coming from a very positive place - as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, 'There's much more right with you than wrong with you.'"
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