It often takes several years for people to successfully quit cigarettes for good. Nicotine is highly addictive and tobacco products are in people’s line of sight practically everywhere. With the rise of e-cigarettes there is a new generation of nicotine addicts, people who will one day need to consider quitting. While there are smoking cessation products and therapies that have proven to be effective, the rate of nicotine relapse is still extremely high.
In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) with regard to nicotine cessation, and in some cases CBT techniques have shown great promise. A review of past research suggests that mindfulness meditation (becoming self-aware of one’s experience), a form behavioral training, may help people (even those who have no urge to quit) exercise self-control when it comes to quitting, Medical News Today reports.
“Early evidence suggests that exercises aimed at increasing self-control, such as mindfulness meditation, can decrease the unconscious influences that motivate a person to smoke,” say the experts, including senior study author Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.
A Will to Quit is Not Required
One study reviewed by researchers was conducted by researchers at Texas Tech University and University of Oregon to determine if improvements in self-control could disrupt cravings, according to the article. A novel aspect of the study is that participants were under the opinion that they were learning about meditation and relaxation methods for stress reduction and cognitive enhancement, rather than techniques for quitting smoking.
The research involved 60 undergraduate students, 27 of which smoked cigarettes. Mindfulness meditation training was taught to one half, while the other half received a relaxation technique, the article reports. Before and after the two weeks of sessions, the participants were asked questions and their smoking was objectively measured with carbon monoxide testing.
Interestingly, the participants that were smokers reported having smoked the same amount as usual before and after. However, the group that received mindfulness meditation training were found to have a 60% reduction in smoking. The findings were based off carbon monoxide tests in the 2 weeks after the study.
“The students changed their smoking behavior but were not aware of it. When we showed the data to a participant who said they had smoked 20 cigarettes, this person checked their pocket immediately and was shocked to find 10 left,” said lead author Yi-Yuan Tang, a professor of psychological sciences at Texas Tech.
Mindfulness Meditation May Not Be For Everyone
“Mindfulness meditation, as well as other strategies that are aimed at strengthening self-control, are likely to be useful for the management of addiction, but not necessarily for everybody,” said Dr. Volkow. “However, understanding how our brain works when we do interventions that strengthen self-control can also have multiple implications that relate to behaviors that are necessary for health and wellbeing.”
The findings were published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
If you are or loved one is suffering from addiction, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you start your journey of recovery.