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Mindfulness and Meditation During Drug Detox

Written By: Gary Bowers

Article Updated: 01/22/2021

Number of References: 5 Sources

Mindfulness and meditation are changing the way we think about and treat addiction, with many of the leading drug detox centers incorporating them as core components of their holistic programming. These practices are beneficial in their own right, but are most advantageous when used in conjunction with clinical oversight and withdrawal medications provided by medical detox programs.

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Challenges of Drug Detox

Checking into detox can be a painful and emotional experience. Drug withdrawal causes a variety of different symptoms which are extremely uncomfortable. Virtually every person that enters the doors of a treatment facility is dealing with one or more of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation and/or Irritability
  • Mood Swings

Mindfulness and meditation can be extremely useful tools in addressing these issues and detox centers will introduce them during the earliest, most critical moments in the recovery journey. Helping to reduce the uncomfortable psychological symptoms of detox can improve someone’s chances of successful, long term recovery.


Meditation comes in many forms, but at its core, meditation is the practice of focusing on one thing – usually one’s breathing – as a way to ground oneself to the moment, seeking to block out distractions. Becoming more connected with the here and now may help reduce levels of anxiety and fears of the future.

Why it’s Helpful During Detox

Meditation is a therapeutic practice that can be extremely helpful in all types of detox programs. The act of meditation can bring calm and centeredness to what may ordinarily be a stressful experience. Reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and brain activity have very real benefits in a recovery setting. Aside from helping with the psychological symptoms, these reductions in stress responses and vital signs may also improve the subjective experience of physical withdrawal symptoms during detox as well.

Meditation Practices Used By Detox Centers

There is a wide variety of different practices used during detox and these may vary between different facilities or programs. Some of the most commonly used techniques include:

  • Guided Meditation: This type of meditation is led by someone who will lead those in meditation through a series of steps that will assist in blocking out unwanted external distractions. Anxiety can be a common issue when undergoing drug detox, and the calming and relaxing effects of guided meditation can be useful relief.
  • Mantra Meditation: Mantra meditation will focus on one phrase or even just a few words. Mantra meditation is a powerful tool at focusing on intentions and desires. In a detox center setting, this works by remaining connected to recovery and the reasons for getting well.


Mindfulness will share some similar benefits to meditation such as a sense of calm, relaxation and awareness, but where meditation will focus on one thing (such as breathing or a mantra), mindfulness focuses on the moment, and all the emotions, thoughts, senses, feelings and materials points of being. The goal of mindfulness practices is to be less of a slave to these things, and become more of a passive observer without the impulsive need to engage every single thought or feeling that arises.

Why It’s Helpful During Detox

Mindfulness is making dramatic and positive waves in the world of recovery, and is an emerging tool used during drug detox. Mindfulness works by allowing someone to truly engage and experience life through an observational and non judgemental way. Studies have shown mindfulness as effective as traditional medications when treating depressive episodes, and when applying this practice to addiction, it can help break the connections between thoughts and actions, relieving cravings and helping to remove the obsession to use drugs.

Mindfulness Practices Used By Detox Centers

Practices may vary, but in a detox setting these elements of mindfulness can be useful in addressing the psychological damage caused by drug abuse and withdrawal:

  • Being Present: Focus on the “right here, right now”. By leaving the past behind, and allowing the future to happen, we are exposed to the truth that this very moment is all we have. This helps ground us in the process of recovery right now.
  • Acceptance: Seeing things for how they really are, and abandoning the thoughts or emotional equity we put into them. Acceptance teaches us that people, places and things exist independent of our will. For someone in recovery, this level of acceptance can dissolve negative associations with past drug use.
  • Non-Judgement: If one can put aside their judgement, and see things through an open-minded lens, the binary barriers of “good” and “bad” and “right” and “wrong” can give way to a more free-flowing and situational awareness. For someone in detox who is dealing with depression, a non judgemental perspective on their emotions can help free them from the desire to change their feelings using drugs or alcohol.
  • Non-Attachment: Attachment is connected to control, and desire to control can often lead to unsatisfied wants, failed expectations and rejection. When someone is able to observe their life without attachment, the ups and downs – especially the downs – are seen as transient and ever-changing parts of life.

Why Detox Centers Work

Addiction is a complex problem that can’t be solved in some singular way. Among many other things, recovery is often the result of hard work, education, willingness, and the support of people along the way. Detox centers are effective in treating recovery because they will offer a comprehensive approach that is based on the needs of the individual.

A well-rounded detox support plan includes:

Medical Supervision: Around the clock care at a medical detox facility will help to address the health-related needs as they arise. Drug detox can be dangerous but professional medical support can dramatically improve the safety of the individual.

Withdrawal Medications: The medical staff at a detox center can prescribe drugs specifically for the symptoms of withdrawal. Medical therapy in this context can be used to treat mental health (anxiety, depression) as well as physical health issues such as high blood pressure, body aches, and nausea.

Gateway To Further Treatment: Detox centers will be connected to the greater recovery community. This exposure can open the doors to further treatment options. From intensive outpatient treatment centers to sober living facilities, the next step in recovery is more accessible than ever before.

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