Meditation to Prevent Drug and Alcohol Relapse

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After completing an addiction treatment program, you will want to find the right tools to limit the risk of a relapse. Although the best relapse prevention strategies will depend on your personal concerns, goals and interests, meditation or mindfulness teach you different ways to avoid triggers and limit cravings for drugs or alcohol. Meditation to prevent drug and alcohol relapse is becoming a very popular tool in recovery.

According to the National Institutes of Health (1), roughly 50 percent of individuals relapse on drugs or alcohol within one year of completing a treatment program. By incorporating meditation, the risk of relapse reduces, says the National Institutes of Health (1).

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

According to Psychology Today (2), identifying and treating the emotional factors that contribute to substance abuse plays an essential role in the recovery process. Meditation allows individuals to focus on their current state of mind and their thought processes so that they understand the reasons that drugs or alcohol seem appealing.

Psychology Today (2) explains that mindfulness refers to the process of seeing yourself clearly and then making active changes to your thoughts, emotions or the stress that causes substance abuse triggers.

Mindfulness meditation is a form of meditation that focuses on understanding your thought processes and recognizing the factors that contribute to substance abuse. It also helps reduce your stress levels and emotional challenges so that you reduce the number of triggers that make drugs or alcohol tempting.

Impact of Mindfulness on Drug Relapse

The goal of relapse prevention strategies is to reduce the risk of abusing a substance after completing a treatment program. Essentially, you want to avoid situations that make drugs or alcohol tempting by identifying the causes of your addiction and then actively limiting your exposure to risky situation.

Mindfulness allows you to recognize when a situation raises concerns and then take appropriate measures to back away from that situation.

According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids (3), individuals in a mindfulness meditation program after completing an addiction treatment program are less likely to relapse on drugs or alcohol after one year when compared to individuals in a 12-step program or other traditional relapse prevention programs.

The Way It Helps Prevent Drug Abuse

The University of California at Berkeley (4) reports that mindfulness meditation helps prevent drug abuse by raising non-judgmental awareness of your thought processes, your surroundings in every moment, and the emotions that you feel throughout the day. It allows you to recognize when cravings arise and accept the cravings as a part of the recovery process.

By accepting that you will face stressful situations and taking steps to reduce the discomfort associated with your normal lifestyle, you reduce the risk of relapsing on drugs or alcohol.

According to the University of California at Berkeley (4), mindfulness meditation combines traditional meditation practices like breathing techniques and clearing your thoughts with relapse prevention strategies like identifying triggers and strategies to cope with cravings that arise throughout the day.

By learning different ways to reduce your stress levels and focus on recovery, you limit the number of cravings that arise and start learning valuable ways to avoid drugs or alcohol in different situations.

Relapse prevention provides the tools to avoid drugs or alcohol after you complete a treatment program. By identifying the factors that contribute to substance abuse and triggers, you learn ways to avoid those situations. Mindfulness meditation provides the tools that you need to limit the risks and start improving your lifestyle after treatment.


  1. Aleksandra Zgierska, MD, PhD, David Rabago, MD, Megan Zuelsdorff, BS, Christopher Coe, PhD, Michael Miller, MD, and Michael Fleming, MD, MPH, Mindfulness Meditation for Alcohol Relapse Prevention: A Feasibility Pilot Study, The National Institutes of Health, September 2008,
  2. Ronald Alexander, Ph.D., Mindfulness Meditation and Addiction, Psychology Today, April 16, 2010,
  3. “Mindfulness” Meditation Can Help Reduce Addiction Relapse Rates: Study, The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, March 25, 2014,
  4. Emily Nauman, Can Mindfulness Help Stop Substance Abuse?, The University of California at Berkeley, July 14, 2014,

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