How Meditation Conquers Addiction
It seems that nearly all of us are addicted to something: whether its alcohol, tobacco, food, coffee, prescriptions, or illegal substances. Here, we discuss 7 physiological and psychological reasons meditation is the best, most effective way to naturally overcome any addiction.
#1 — Meditation Gives Us A "Natural High" Through The Brain’s Happiness Center
Just as our favorite mind altering substances cause us to get high and crash, scientists have confirmed the same thing happening in the brain of people with addiction.
A 2002 study published in the The American Journal of Psychiatry (Goldstein et al) examined the role of certain brain regions in drug addiction. What were the results?
They found that the brain’s happiness center, the prefrontal cortex, to be super stimulated during intoxication (the "fix"), and incredibly under-active during withdrawal (the "crash").
If only there was a better way to activate the prefrontal cortex! Thankfully, there is.
A prominent 2005 study by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar showed that meditators had significantly more neural density, cortical thickness, and overall activity within their prefrontal cortexes.
What does this mean for people wanting to overcome addiction?
Meditation will stimulate and train your brain to be happy and "naturally high", without the need for alcohol, prescriptions, marijuana, drugs, cigarettes, or any other addictive substance to feel good.
Note: Piling on the evidence, meditation also supercharges the brain and body with endorphins, another super pleasurable natural brain chemical. The effect is so strong, in fact, that the so called "meditator's high" has shown to be stronger than the well-known "runner's high."
Meditators have been happy, addiction free folks for millenia. It is good to see hard science confirming age-old mindful wisdom.
#2 — Meditation Elicits The Same Brainwaves That Doctors Use To Treat Addiction
A 2005 study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse (Scott et al) looked at 121 patients going through an inpatient substance abuse program.
The participants were given EEG biofeedback training, which put simply, puts the brainwave patterns of the user into a more advanced state of consciousness (here they used alpha & theta waves). What were the results?
Incredibly, at a one year follow up, 77% of patients were completely drug free.
What is the best way to train the brain into the super beneficial alpha-theta state without expensive biofeedback therapy? Meditation.
As numerous EEG studies show, alpha and theta brainwaves dominate during a meditative state.
Indeed, the brain research community has built a mountain of evidence showing that meditation can help immensely in beating addiction, healthily and naturally.
#3 — Meditation Makes You A Master Of "Urge Surfing"
Anyone suffering from addiction knows about the "urge" — the overwhelming, tunnel-vision like, super-powerful impulse to satisfy your craving.
It can seem like our addictions can sometimes "do us" rather than "us doing them."
What then, is the best way to loosen the stranglehold these self-destructive impulses have over our lives?
Meditation. The key to witnessing these impulses instead of being controlled by them, meditation works not by suppression (which makes things worse) — but by allowing the mind to simply step aside from the waterfall of addictive thoughts.
The meditative mind neutrally observes the coming and going of urges and cravings in a very unnemotional and detached way.
When meditation puts you back into the driver seat of your mind, urges downgrade to just another thought, powerless to manipulate you in any way.
#4 — Getting Our "Fix" Releases The #1 Pleasure Chemical: Dopamine. Meditation Does Too, But Naturally
A 2004 study published in Molecular Psychiatry (Volkow et al) found that when an addict gets their "fix", high amounts of the euphoric brain chemical "dopamine" flood certain brain regions like the "nucleus accumbens".
Conversely, the study found dopamine levels to be extra low at other times (the crash) — which ultimately forces the brain into seeking more of the drug’s temporary dopamine boost, creating a vicious cycle.
The researchers postulated how important it was to find a healthy and natural dopamine-releasing activity to effectively counter addictive behavior. If only there were a super powerful, all natural solution?
There is, meditation! A landmark 2002 study at the John F. Kennedy Institute (Kjaer et al) found that dopamine levels of participants were boosted by a whopping 65% during meditation.
Just as important, meditators dopamine levels remained at an optimally healthy range when not in meditation. In other words, no crashing.
#5 — Study: Meditation Is "6 Times More Effective" Than Traditional Drug Treatment
A 2006 study by University of Washington researchers (Bowen et al) examined 78 substance addicted prison inmates for three months.
The participants were taught meditation for 10 days, and given questionnaires to self-report their drug use at day 0 and again at day 90. What were the results?
Amazingly, the study found that inmates who practiced meditation for 3 months drank 87% less alcohol, and used 89% less marijuana.
Furthermore, meditation was found to be almost 6 times more effective than the control group’s more traditional chemical dependency treatment plan.
Another incredible example of the limitless power of meditation, especially for those who want to rid their lives of addiction.
#6 — Most Addictions Stem From Stress. Meditation Makes You Immune To Stress
Life likes to test us in many different ways, and we all have a maximum limit for how much we can handle.
If we don’t healthily and naturally deal with this pain, we find ways to cope, like addiction, to feel normal again — to feel good again.
Meditation transforms your central nervous system and brain, shifting your body chemistry out of "fight or flight" survival mode, so that the stress that had you reaching for your once favorite self-medication (alcohol, cigarettes, junk food, etc.) yesterday, will no longer affect you today.
#7 — Meditation Fixes The Deep Rooted Reasons For Addiction
The most effective treatment programs address the true reason for addiction — unhappiness. What is the root cause of unhappiness, and therefore, addiction? Not living consciously.
If you are drifting through life, feel you have lost control, or don’t know how you got to where you are, then choosing to live consciously can change everything.
Meditation, by its very nature, is the act of conscious thought examination. It puts you face to face with all that is disharmonious in your life (especially addiction), and brings everything back into harmony.