Mindfulness therapy reduces opioid misuse in chronic pain patients
Utah Public Radio
By: Max McDermott
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.
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