Mindfulness – A New Path To Treat Addiction

Addiction is said to be the scourge of the modern generation, with more and more (and increasingly young) men and women becoming trapped in a cycle of substance and alcohol abuse, that encourages them to engage in behaviors which are dangerous and life threatening.

Man is essentially the same as he ever was. The world around us has changed immeasurably since we took our first hesitant steps as a species – but our hardware, our brains are still the same. It is trying to cope with a modern world, but has never really evolved from the time in which all we had to worry about was gathering food, and running away from danger. Now we’re faced with so many problem, so much choice and so much stress that we often turn to things to help calm ourselves or quell the rising anxiety we feel.

 

PET brain scans show chemical differences in t...

PET brain scans show chemical differences in the brain between addicts and non-addicts. The normal images in the bottom row come from non-addicts; the abnormal images in the top row come from patients with addiction disorders. These PET brain scans show that that addicts have fewer than average dopamine receptors in their brains, so that weaker dopamine signals are sent between cells. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might reach for a drink if you’ve had a stressful day at work, but, if you’re someone who is predisposed to addiction, find that after a certain amount of time, that one drink is not enough and that more is required to get the same feeling. The same goes for illicit substances. Your brain gets into a pattern called a “habit loop” and this, to overcome addiction, needs to be broken.

 

For years, treatments like 12 Step Programs or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy were the gold standard for things like this, with good  results. But nowadays psychologists and doctors want other options to be available to their patients and one tried and tested model that shows promise is Mindfulness.

As an emerging treatment for addiction, this is proven and has shown itself to be a very effective method of helping patients with addiction. It works by actively making the patient think about every step of the craving, the ingestion and the aftermath of taking a substance/smoking or drinking and helps them to try to reprogram the brain to recognize it as something unpleasant which will give them no pleasure at all.

Patients are actively encouraged to “feel” the sensations that a craving gives them, and to work on noticing how they react when they do not give in to the craving – from their they can work on kicking their habit and using other methods of meditation and relaxation to help them cope.

For more info on this topic, see  Is Mindfulness an Emerging Treatment for Addiction?

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