top of page

Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Addiction refers to engaging in addictive substances or behaviours in order to experience temporary pleasure or relief from some kind of pain despite negative consequences, and is associated with significant psychological, physical and social harm. Addiction is often accompanied by comorbid mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which can exacerbate addictive behaviours. In recent years, mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have gained recognition as a promising approach to support recovery from addiction. This article explores the role on mindfulness in addiction recovery.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a practice that involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can be cultivated through meditation, yoga, body scan, among other techniques. By learning to observe our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations with openness and curiosity, we can develop a greater awareness of the internal experience and learn to respond more skilfully to challenging situations.

Benefits of Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

Research has shown that MBIs can be effective in reducing substance use and related problems. They are associated with significant reductions in substance use, cravings, psychological distress and mental health outcomes. One possible mechanism through which mindfulness may improve addiction outcomes is by improving automatic and impulsive behaviours. By cultivating a non-judgmental awareness of present moment experience, people in recovery can become more aware of their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations, and learn to observe them without acting impulsively. This can increase the ability to tolerate distressing emotions and triggers without resorting to substance use as a coping mechanism.

In addition, mindfulness can promote a sense of acceptance and self-compassion, which can counteract shame and self-criticism often experienced by individuals in recovery. By cultivating kind and non-judgmental attitude towards themselves, people can develop a greater sense of self-worth and resilience, which can enhance their motivation and commitment to recovery.

Furthermore, mindfulness can improve the functioning of brain regions involved in executive control, attention regulation and emotion regulation, which are often impaired in those who suffer from addiction. Studies using neuroimaging techniques have shown that MBIs can lead to structural and functional changes in brain, including increased grey matter volume in prefrontal cortex regions, which are involved in executive control and decision-making.

Implications for Addiction Treatment

As mindfulness continues to gain recognition as an evidence-based practice in addiction treatment, it is likely to become widely used and accepted approach to support people in their journey towards recovery. However, it is important to note that mindfulness-based interventions are not a universal solution that fits all and may not be suitable for all individuals in recovery.

Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery. Iremia Counselling


Li, W., Howard, M. O., Garland, E. L., McGovern, P., & Lazar, M. (2017). Mindfulness treatment for substance misuse: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 75, 62-96.


bottom of page