Get help today 888-319-2606 or sign up for 24/7 text support.
American Addiction Centers National Rehabs Directory

Meditation for Addiction Recovery

Mindfulness and Recovery

Meditation is a complementary and alternative (CAM) approach to mainstream addiction recovery services, such as psychotherapy and group counseling. 1 This mind and body practice can heighten the benefits of traditional therapies when used in combination with them.

Learn more about meditation and substance abuse, including:

  • What is meditation?
  • Benefits of meditation.
  • Meditation exercises for addiction.
  • Use of meditation in drug rehab programs.
  • How to find a recovery program that offers meditation.

What Is Meditation?

Meditation is a generally safe exercise that focuses on the mind-body connection with the goal of inducing relaxation and serenity. It has been shown to improve physical and mental health.

Meditation practices can vary greatly. But there are a few common components or guidelines: 2

  • Find a quiet and distraction-free setting
  • Sit or lie down comfortably
  • Focus on your breathing, a repeated sound or word (mantra), or a single idea
  • Keep an open mind

Meditation does not need to take place over a set duration of time. Beginners can start meditating for a few minutes at a time and work up to longer sessions. You don’t have to be religious or spiritual to participate.

The activity focuses on mindfulness, or awareness of present feelings, thoughts, physical sensations, and surroundings. Mindfulness also involves accepting feelings and thoughts as they are without judging or labeling them. 3

Although meditation, along with other CAM treatments, has been received with some skepticism by addiction and medical professionals, a growing amount of research supports its effectiveness for addiction recovery and relapse prevention. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Benefits of Meditation

In general, meditation helps promote a sense of inner peace and calm, increases self-awareness, improves mental functioning, and helps the person detach from thoughts and impulses, which can help reduce cravings and prevent relapse.

Meditation can provide a person in recovery with numerous psychological and physical benefits, such as:

  • Decreased blood pressure: Studies suggest meditating can lower the blood pressure of those at risk for hypertension. 2
  • Immune system enhancement: A mindful meditation program may improve immune system functioning. 9
  • Pain relief: Meditation can decrease subjective pain ratings in practicing individuals. 10
  • Anxiety relief: Meditative techniques can help individuals control anxiety. 2, 11
  • Stress management: Meditation can produce small to moderate improvements in stress levels. 12
  • Reduction in depressive symptoms: Some evidence suggests improvement of depression in those practicing meditation. 2, 12
  • Better sleep: Studies suggest meditation may enhance sleep in insomniacs. 2

Additionally, some studies suggest that long-term meditation can have positive changes in brain structure and functioning. 2 Research results indicate the following changes:

  • Increased gyrification, or the forming of folds on the cerebral cortex. This can speed up information processing, improve decision-making, and enhance memory formation. 13
  • Slowed or reversed age-related changes in the brain. 2
  • Decreased gray matter in the amygdala, which plays a role in anxiety and stress. 14

Further research is needed to evaluate the therapeutic value of meditation and mindfulness, but it is a relatively risk-free practice, with reports of adverse effects being rare. 2

Meditation Exercises for Addiction

Many different meditative exercises are available. Trying each technique will allow you to choose which one works best for you. Different exercises include:

  • Breathing: Breathe naturally, focusing on inhalation and exhalation.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: This form of meditation brings awareness to each part of your body, ultimately relaxing you from head to toe.
  • Mantra-based: Repeat a word or phrase out loud or internally. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the mantra.
  • Guided: A trained teacher verbally guides you through the meditation process.
  • Movement meditation: This involves physical activity, such as walking, yoga, hiking, and surfing, being mindful of each part of your body as it moves.

What works for one person may not work for another, so if you’re interested in trying meditation to curb cravings and prevent relapse, it’s important to keep an open mind when trying new techniques.

Use of Meditation in Drug Rehabilitation Programs

Many recovery centers have begun to incorporate meditation into their treatment programs. Meditation isn’t meant to be used as a standalone treatment, but rather as a complementary treatment. Drug rehab programs use meditation in combination with traditional forms of treatment, such as group counseling, individual therapy, addiction education, medication, and any other recovery services.

The addiction treatment programs that offer meditation typically have classes led by therapists or other certified staff members. These leaders guide participants through the exercise, with everyone sitting quietly and following instructions.

Many people encounter meditation and mindful practices for the first time upon entering a treatment program and find that they continue to do it after they leave rehab. This healthy habit can promote long-term abstinence for those in recovery.

Find a Recovery Program That Offers Meditation

If you’re interested in a recovery program that offers meditation, call our helpline at to talk to a recovery support specialist about treatment options. Someone is available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.