Can mind-body therapies help reduce reliance on opioids?

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Published: February, 2020

A large study published online Nov. 4, 2019, by JAMA Internal Medicine offers hope for people who want to reduce their reliance on opioids. The powerful prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), are typically used to treat severe pain after surgery, pain with terminal illness, and chronic pain. But use of these drugs comes with the risk of dependence, addiction, overdose, and death. So researchers set out to determine if mind-body therapies (such as meditation or hypnosis) could help ease pain. Scientists reviewed 60 randomized trials with more than 6,400 people taking opioids for reasons such as surgery, burns, cancer, or chronic pain. Researchers noted moderate to large improvements in pain among people who added meditation, hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or therapeutic suggestion to their pain control regimens. Meditation, hypnosis, and CBT were so effective that people were able to slightly reduce the amount of opioids they were taking. Two other therapies — relaxation therapy and guided imagery — did not have a significant impact on pain. The great news: you have nothing to lose by adding one of these mind-body therapies to your regimen, and it may even help.

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