- Opioids are drugs with analgesic properties used primarily to relieve pain. They can also be produced or obtained illegally.
- They have different side effects, the most serious being the risk of addiction or overdose, especially when consumed outside of a medical framework.
- According to WHO estimates, some 115,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2017. Opioid overdoses, which are not necessarily fatal, are more common than fatal overdoses.
Opioid addiction is a public health problem that is worsening in many countries on the American and European continent, especially since the Covid-19 crisis. However, a team of researchers from the University of Utah in the United States has found a way to get rid of it: mindfulness meditation. Their study is available online on the journal’s website Science.
Meditation: 15 minutes a day was enough to help addicted patients
Led by Dr. Eric Garland, a psychotherapist specializing in mindfulness-based therapy, the research team discovered that it was possible to help patients addicted to these drugs usually prescribed to relieve chronic pain. How ? By providing psychology sessions two hours a week for two months, with a little something extra: fifteen minutes of meditation a day.
Thanks to this program, the patients managed to regulate their consumption. The improvement was maintained more than nine months later, which proves that the brain has learned to free itself from the influence of drugs.
The mindfulness meditation would cause the appearance of special waves visible by electroencephalography (EEG) in the front of the brain of the patients, theta waves between 4 and 8 hertz, in areas associated with self-control, attention and concentration. According to the researchers, it is thanks to these waves that patients regain control over their addiction more easily. Thus, the team of scientists suggests that the practice of meditation, thanks to the theta waves it induces, could participate in reducing addictive behavior.
Cranial stimulation to better control addiction?
But if it is these waves, and not the practice of meditation itself, that bring about this progress, why not induce them directly in the brain?
It would indeed be possible to produce these theta waves in the frontal brain using the transcranial magnetic stimulation, a technique already practiced in the hospital to fight against chronic pain. Research on this type of approach is currently underway. But this study has the merit of offering new perspectives to try to reduce the obsessive thoughts that torment addict patients.
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Addiction: mindfulness meditation helps get rid of opioids
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