A 2004 Study published in Molecular Psychiatry indicates that when the addict gets a fix, they get a dopamine rush and later a crash due to extremely low dopamine, and hence need another fix. However a 2002 Study of John F Kennedy Institute found that meditation boosted dopamine by 65%.
A 2006 Study from the University of Washington followed 78 addicted inmates. They found that including meditation in their treatment program made it 6 times more effective than the more traditional chemical dependency treatment plan. A second study followed 286 in post rehab. One third of the group used meditation, another third used the 12 step program and another third a “relapse prevention program”. The relapse prevention program had 17% relapse, the 12 step program had 14% relapse, and the meditators had 9% relapse after 1 year.
A meta study from October 2016 published in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction shows ten benefits that help treat addiction when one is more mindful (becoming more aware, on purpose, in the present moment, in a non-judgmental way).
- Structural Brain Changes in at least 6 areas of the brain that are associated with learning, memory, self-regulation, and more.
- Reduced Autonomic Arousal which increases relaxation response and brings on blissful states
- Perceptual Shift so that people change their relationship and responses to their thoughts and feelings
- Increase in Spirituality which helps buffer against loneliness and help in re-evaluating priorities in life
- Greater Situational Awareness allows the practitioner to enter into a form of effortless communication with the present momentwhich is understood to improve (amongst other things) decision-making competency, job performance, and the ability to anticipate how a particular situation might unfold
- Values Clarification because the practitioner begins to appreciate more fully that life can only unfold and be experienced in the present moment, and that fantasizing about the future or ruminating over the past is ultimately a futile and fatiguing process.
- Increase in Self-Awareness which in turn helps to improve ability to identify and label negative mood states and thinking patterns
- Addiction Substitution because the blissful state from meditation can substitute for the addicted person’s buzz addiction, in other words, substituting a negative addiction for a positive one.
- Urge Surfing refers to the ability to observe the urge but not react to it which allows them to deal with their cravings in a new way
- Letting Go pattern is positively correlated with acceptance, non-reactivity, self-compassion, subjective wellbeing, and eudemonic wellbeing
“What happens is when you meditate, your brain starts to shift,” said Christina Nadeau, meditation instructor at Outer Banks Meditation & Mindfulness in Corolla, North Carolina. “You start looking at something in a different perspective. The body is processing all those toxins. Your toxicity levels go down; your blood pressure goes down; your immune system gets better; you are able to make natural chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.”
Meditation also helped Stacy Thrash with the physical symptoms she experienced during addiction recovery. “The physical craving in the body gets worse if you resist it,” she said. “We’re used to running from our emotions. When we’re able to respond to something differently, it comes and goes. A headache doesn’t last forever.”