mental health

Podcast: Wellness chatbots and meditation pods with Deepak Chopra

Leaps.org talked with Deepak Chopra about new technologies he's developing for mental health with Jonathan Marcoschamer, CEO of OpenSeed, and others.

Hannah Cohen

Over the last few decades, perhaps no one has impacted healthy lifestyles more than Deepak Chopra. While several of his theories and recommendations have been criticized by prominent members of the scientific community, he has helped bring meditation, yoga and other practices for well-being into the mainstream in ways that benefit the health of vast numbers of people every day. His work has led many to accept new ways of thinking about alternative medicine, the power of mind over body, and the malleability of the aging process.

His impact is such that it's been observed our culture no longer recognizes him as a human being but as a pervasive symbol of new-agey personal health and spiritual growth. Last week, I had a chance to confirm that Chopra is, in fact, a human being – and deserving of his icon status – when I talked with him for the Leaps.org podcast. He relayed ideas that were wise and ancient, yet highly relevant to our world today, with the fluidity and ease of someone discussing the weather. Showing no signs of slowing down at age 76, he described his prolific work, including the publication of two books in the past year and a range of technologies he’s developing, including a meditation app, meditation pods for the workplace, and a chatbot for mental health called Piwi.

Take a listen and get inspired to do some meditation and deep thinking on the future of health. As Chopra told me, “If you don’t have time to meditate once per day, you probably need to meditate twice per day.”

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Twitter @fuchswriter.

New Tool in the Battle Against Opioid Addiction Could Be
Mindfulness

Researchers have found that a mindfulness-based therapy, including savoring natural rewards, can help patients with chronic pain and opioid addiction.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

More than 20 percent of American adults suffer from chronic pain. And as many as one in four of those prescribed opioids to manage that pain go on to misuse – or abuse – them, often with devastating consequences. Patients afflicted by both chronic pain and opioid addiction are especially difficult to treat, according to Eric Garland, PhD, Director of the University of Utah’s Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development, because opioid overuse increases pain sensitivity, and pain promotes relapse among those being treated for addiction.

A new study, however, shows that a mindfulness-based therapy can successfully tackle both problems at once, pointing to a tool that could potentially help in fighting the opioid crisis. “This is the first large-scale clinical trial to show that any psychological intervention can reduce opioid misuse and chronic pain for the long term,” says Garland, lead author of the study, published February 28th in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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Lori Miller Kase
Lori Miller Kase, an award-winning journalist based in Connecticut, writes frequently about health, the environment, food and the arts. She is Health Editor at Large for CoveyClub, and her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including Discover, Aeon, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe Magazine. She also teaches creative writing for kids, and is currently working on a young adult novel.
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Monnica Williams was stuck. The veteran psychologist wanted to conduct a study using psychedelics, but her university told her they didn't have the expertise to evaluate it via an institutional review board, which is responsible for providing ethical and regulatory oversight for research that involves human participants. Instead, they directed her to a hospital, whose reviewers turned it down, citing research of a banned substance as unethical.

"I said, 'We're not using illegal psilocybin, we're going through Health Canada,'" Williams said. Psilocybin was banned in Canada in 1974, but can now be obtained with an exemption from Health Canada, the federal government's health policy department. After learning this, the hospital review board told Williams they couldn't review her proposal because she's not affiliated with the hospital, after all.

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Robin Donovan
Robin Donovan is a science journalist based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in Vice, Neo.Life, The Scientist, Willamette Week and many other outlets.
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When Wayne Jonas was in medical school 40 years ago, doctors would write out a prescription for placebos, spelling it out backwards in capital letters, O-B-E-C-A-L-P. The pharmacist would fill the prescription with a sugar pill, recalls Jonas, now director of integrative health programs at the Samueli Foundation. It fulfilled the patient's desire for the doctor to do something when perhaps no drug could help, and the sugar pills did no harm.

Today, that deception is seen as unethical. But time and time again, studies have shown that placebos can have real benefits. Now, researchers are trying to untangle the mysteries of placebo effect in an effort to better treat patients.

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Bob Roehr
Bob Roehr is a biomedical journalist based in Washington, DC. Over the last twenty-five years he has written extensively for The BMJ, Scientific American, PNAS, Proto, and myriad other publications. He is primarily interested in HIV, infectious disease, immunology, and how growing knowledge of the microbiome is changing our understanding of health and disease. He is working on a book about the ways the body can at least partially control HIV and how that has influenced (or not) the search for a treatment and cure.