Mindfulness therapy reduces opioid misuse in chronic pain patients

Utah Public Radio
By: Max McDermott

May 11, 2022 

Garland said that addiction to drugs, like opioids, alters the brain’s wiring in ways that reduce the pleasure of everyday experiences. Experiences like sunsets, birds chirping, the warmth of a loved one’s hand, become less pleasurable. Simultaneously, the brain becomes hypersensitive to drug-related cues such as the presence of an opioid pill bottle. To combat this imbalance Garland says patients were taught what’s called ‘savoring.’

“We bring in a bouquet of roses, and the patients pull out a rose, and we asked them to focus mindful attention on the rose and to appreciate the pleasant colors, and textures, and scent of the flower, as well as the touch of the petals against their skin,” Garland said.

The results showed that mindfulness therapy is more effective than traditional group psychotherapy in reducing opioid misuse in chronic pain sufferers. Patients in the mindfulness treatment group reduced their opioid misuse by 45%, and 36% in this group were able to cut their opioid dose by at least half.

“This study is really important because this is the largest clinical trial, to my knowledge, of any psychological intervention for people with chronic pain who misuse opioids. And this is the first large scale clinical trial to show that a psychological intervention can reduce opioid misuse in people with chronic pain,” Garland said.


Self-Transcendence: Dissolving Pain, Overcoming Addiction


February 24, 2022 

A conversation with Eric Garland, Fadel Zeidan, David Vago, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and host Alejandro Chaoul-Reich 

In this fascinating conversation our distinguished presenters share neuroscience discoveries and effects of powerful interventions such as mindfulness, reappraisal and savoring that enable health-enhancing changes in one’s perspective and habitual mindsets. Learn also what brings these scholars to study the effects of ancient meditation traditions on pain relief, opioid addiction and human suffering. 


Working with Addiction and Pain 

Mind & Life Institute 

February 2021

In this podcast, Mind and Life Institute and Dr. Garland discuss the power of mindfulness meditation, savoring, and self-transcendence in overcoming chronic pain and addiction.   


Mindful recovery from addiction, pain, and “more”

Flourishing After Addiction 

September 9, 2021

For decades, clinicians have used mindfulness-based interventions to treat stress, physical pain, and mental disorders. But there’s more to meditation than “mindfulness” alone, and today’s researchers in this field are still working out how to incorporate other practices from the wisdom traditions that gave rise to mindfulness-based treatment in the first place.


Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement

The Addiction Psychologist

September 14,2021

Addiction is characterized in part by habitual drug seeking and use and diminished pleasure from nondrug alternatives. Both may serve as critical points of intervention in the treatment of substance use. Mindfulness, the practice of intentional awareness, may be a useful tool to help clients notice habitual behavior and savor nondrug alternatives. Dr. Eric Garland discusses integrating mindfulness with cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to create Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement. 

Using Savoring and Mindfulness to Treat Chronic Pain and Addiction

The Healing Pain Podcast

September 14,2021

In this episode, we speak with Professor Eric Garland, who teaches at the University of Utah, a licensed clincial social worker and a researcher who uses mindfulness to treat many chronic conditions. His research has been shown to be effective and support the recovery from alcohol dependence, opioid misuse, nicotine addiction, relieve pain as well as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, reduces video game addiction and unhealthy eating behaviors. We’ll take a deep dive into the theory, research and practice components of delivering mindfulness-based interventions. 



“MORE” A Proven and Effective Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder 

Psych Up Live

April 7, 2022

Someone has finally found a way to address opioid misuse and addiction among people with chronic pain. In this show, Dr. Eric Garland, the world’s leading expert on the use of mind-body therapies to treat opioid misuse for pain will discuss the recently proven effectiveness of “MORE” – “Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement.” Dr. Garland will define opioid use disorder (OUD), its relationship to chronic pain and what makes opioids so addictive.  Dr. Garland will invite the audience to hear and feel what it would be like to be in a Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement Group, he will consider why the group format matters and why he believes a significant number of those who received this treatment to reduced their opioid use without being specifically directed to do so. Given the danger of Opioid Use Disorder, the number of people suffering, the importance of these findings and the need for available effective treatment, this becomes a show everyone needs to hear.



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