Mindfulness: A Non-Opioid Alternative for Pain Management

Today, opioids are widely accepted in the medical community as the go-to for treating pain. But with opioid addiction rates skyrocketing, perhaps it’s time to turn our attention to time-tested, natural treatment methods that are actually good for our bodies and minds.

Do We Really Need That Many Opioids?

Unfortunately, prescribing huge quantities of opioids to treat even normal levels of pain has become common practice in the American healthcare system. One patient, a former opioid addict who had also lost a loved one to opioids, describes her experience of receiving a prescription for 40 Tylenol with codeine after repeatedly requesting not to be given opioids. Since many people start their opioid addiction by first receiving a prescription, this practice only serves to contribute to the scourge.

How a Lack of Mindfulness Can Lead to Self-Medication With Opioids

There’s a direct relationship between mental health disorders and opioid abuse. One of the reasons for this is that people with preexisting mental health conditions like depression and anxiety might receive a prescription for opioids, realize they like its psychological effects, and have trouble discontinuing their use.

One study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that theself-medication of negative emotions with opioids is related to low dispositional mindfulness.” Dispositional mindfulness is the state in which we’re aware of our thoughts and feelings in the present moment. So there is a correlation between being unmindful and the likelihood of self-medicating with opioids – bad news if you receive one of the 300 million pain prescriptions written in the US each year.

The study found that “individuals with a low degree of dispositional mindfulness experience more severe substance craving,” but “high levels of dispositional mindfulness are associated with enhanced ability to effectively regulate negative affective states.” In other words, because mindfulness teaches us how to regulate our emotional state, naturally, it removes the craving for opioids to mask uncomfortable feelings. When we learn to manage our emotional issues on a deeper level, we no longer need to seek relief from our pain through the use of substances that are toxic to our mind, body and spirit.

Using Mindfulness Meditation Techniques for Treating Pain

The good news is that not only does mindfulness decrease the likelihood of opioid addiction; it’s also a proven alternative method for pain management. A study by the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System found that mindfulness helped opioid-addicted chronic pain patients by reducing their pain, developing their pain coping, improving their sleep and enhancing their body awareness. Said one of the participants: “It felt good to realize [through mindfulness] that I can co-exist with my pain. Being mindful helped me realize that in my angry reaction to my back pain, I was neglecting my whole body. I saw my body only through my pain, which caused me to hate my body over time. I can now see myself outside of my body, and am working day by day with my meditation to become a happier person living with chronic pain.” Additionally, learning meditation techniques helped improve their overall quality of life.

Mindfulness Training and Integrative Opioid Addiction Treatment at The Sanctuary Sedona

At The Sanctuary, all of our clients receive training and engage in daily practice in mindfulness and other forms of meditation. We also offer comprehensive therapies like individual and group counseling sessions, energy therapy sessions and life skills coaching that help you fully recover from addiction and come away equipped with tools for a healthy life.

Read more about the benefits of meditation in recovery here: 4 Important Ways Mindfulness Helps Addiction Recovery.

To learn more about how our non-12-Step program can help you, call us at (877) 710-3385 or email us at info@sanctuary.net.