mental health

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.

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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.
Here's What It Looks Like to Seek Therapy for Climate Change Anxiety

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Julia Sklar
Julia Sklar is a Boston-based independent journalist who covers science, health, and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @jfsklar.
Researchers Are Experimenting With Magic Mushrooms' Fascinating Ability to Improve Mental Health Disorders

Magic mushrooms, in conjunction with a psychotherapist's treatment, may be helpful in treating addiction, depression, anxiety, and other mental health ailments.

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Eve Herold
Eve Herold is a science writer specializing in issues at the intersection of science and society. She has written and spoken extensively about stem cell research and regenerative medicine and the social and bioethical aspects of leading-edge medicine. Her 2007 book, Stem Cell Wars, was awarded a Commendation in Popular Medicine by the British Medical Association. Her 2016 book, Beyond Human, has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction, and a forthcoming book, Robots and the Women Who Love Them, will be released in 2019.
One of the World’s Most Famous Neuroscientists Wants You to Embrace Meditation and Spirituality