Unintentional drug overdoses killed around 27,000 Americans, or about one American every nineteen minutes in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A few years later, in 2014, drug overdoses killed 47,055 U.S. residents, according to the U.S. surgeon general.
These are troublesome statistics, but other statistics are just as alarming. According to the U.S. surgeon general, “Although 20.8 million people (7.8 percent of the population) met the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder in 2015, only 2.2 million individuals (10.4 percent) received any type of treatment. Of those treated, 63.7 percent received treatment in specialty substance use disorder treatment programs,” such as drug rehab centers in Texas.
Another report from the surgeon general estimates that abusing illegal drugs has an economic impact of $193 billion and abusing alcohol $249 billion in the United States in just 2015 alone.
Substance abuse, then, can create high economic and social costs. It is clear that addiction is a great nationwide crisis and that the United States must address it on individual and societal levels.
“At a time when we are resource-constrained already, we cannot afford, for humanitarian reasons or financial reasons, to not address addiction in America,” stated former surgeon general Vivek Murthy. “We have to recognize (addiction) isn’t evidence of a character flaw or a moral failing. It’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion that any other chronic illness does, like diabetes or heart disease.”
As the awareness of addiction spreads in the United States, more people might wonder the best way to treat it. Drug rehab centers in Texas and other states typically offer different treatment options, such as procedures to help detoxify (detox) the body from drugs and alcohol. Other options, such as meditation, may prove to useful in combating addictions that can damage your brain and your body.
When you spend time at a rehab center, especially if you choose holistic addiction treatment, you have the chance to participate in practices such as meditation or yoga. These practices encourage patients to sit quietly to try to calm their minds and create feelings of comfort and peace.
“When people take substances, they’re seeking a certain experience, whether it’s escapist or transcendental or just wanting a different psychological state, to get away from whatever makes them happy,” said Kundalini Research Institute director Dr. Sat Bir Singh Khalsa. “Yoga is an alternative, a positive way to generate a change in consciousness that, instead of providing an escape, empowers people with the ability to access a peaceful, restorative inner state that integrative mind, body, and spirit.”
Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Ronald Alexander states that mindfulness can help defeat the urges of desire that contribute to addiction. “Mindfulness practice helps us develop the capacity to see clearly exactly what we’re attached to so that we can let go of it and end our suffering,” Alexander stated. “The hidden areas of resistance that emerge into our awareness can be noted and examined later so that we can make the conscious choice to reject them.”
MRI scans illustrate that mindfulness meditation might shrink the gray matter in the region of the brain known as the amygdala but thickens other areas of the brain. The practice also weakens the connection between the amygdala and other regions of the brain.
This is significant because the amygdala can create anxiousness and the “fight or flight response,” which makes the brain hyperalert to any perceived threats. A weakened amygdala can fight the anxiety within one’s brain, which can create these effects:
Your breathing will slow down and deepen.
Your heart rate will decrease.
Your body will stop the release of adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream.
Without such anxiety, it easier for people to pay attention and focus. People are more likely to experience feelings of well-being and optimism. Meditation can also enhance regions of the brain that allow us to understand the workings of brains and be reflective and curious.
Alexander says that mindfulness meditation can help to remap the brain and how it functions. He says it helps builds new neural connections where the brain is actually learning things during meditation. By meditating, you can build up your compassion, self-observation, and optimism within the left prefrontal cortex of your brain. The practice can help prevent the left cortex from being dominated by the right prefrontal cortex, which is associated with anxiety, pessimism, depression, and fear.
Even if you develop an addiction, it does not mean you have to remain an addict for the rest of your life. Undergoing detox and other aspects of treatment can help you move past your addiction. Meditation might help you understand how addiction gained control of your mind and give you ways to wrest control back.