The Mindfulness Blog

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Mindfulness, Meditation and Treatment of Opioid Addiction

To use a term that news media and the entertainment industry are fond of using, I fear that mindfulness and meditation are in danger of becoming, "overexposed". In addition to all the secular workplace benefits that have been touted and tested over the past several years, now I read that mindfulness and meditation can help victims of opioid addiction.

And so, the legend grows. Or, in the minds of skeptics (of which there are many), the legend is debunked-- too much of a good thing, I guess. And that's a real shame. Naivety was my specialty when I retired from the practice of law and became an advocate for bringing mindfulness and meditation to the legal profession. My time in the trenches has taught me to be cautious-- the green light can change to yellow, pretty quickly.

Why do I regard the threat of overexposure as a shame? Because neither mindfulness nor meditation are complicated, and they certainly aren't deserving of derision or skepticism-- they're really just, Human Being 101. I tried to define mindfulness when initially writing content for the website, but it now seems that I dodged the question, so I'd like to take another shot.

What is mindfulness? It's our birthright-- the natural ability we all possess to consciously hold the present moment (including persons, places and things, as well as our thoughts and feelings about them) in our attention, without attaching a particular significance or outcome, to the moment. And much like the practice of meditation (which helps me to be more mindful) it's simple, but not easy!

At bottom, mindfulness is really just us, paying attention-- like when we were kids. Child-like, not child-ish ; the "us" we are, when we clear our minds of distraction and bring our full attention to bear upon the person(s), place(s) and thing(s) that are present for us, in a particular moment. In a neutral and unbiased way-- in a non-judgmental way. Why would anyone be skeptical of that?

It's easy to lose sight of such a simple thing, because it doesn't seem to possess the "gravitas" of something more weighty, or complicated. And it is no doubt because mindfulness and meditation don't carry that "gravitas", that there aren't more people who recognize the importance of them. Reacquainting ourselves with things we innately know and possess (but have forgotten and abandoned), isn't exactly the stuff of deep insight.

But, back to the opioid crisis. There's a recent study supporting the contention that people suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain may have fewer cravings, and less pain, when adding Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement ("MORE") to traditional methadone treatment.

I'm far from an expert on the topic, but MORE sounds like a version of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction ("MBSR"), which had been around for 40 years, and is pretty widely recognized as a viable medical tool for treatment of particular conditions.

Whatever the case may be, I applaud the use of mindfulness and meditation as a complement to traditional medical practices-- overexposure be damned. Let the skeptics become curious, and let the curious become converts!


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