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Mindfulness: The New Frontier in Addiction Treatment

By Scott Kiloby

A staggering number of people are living with addiction, anxiety or depression and that number continues to climb. Recent statistics reveal that between 25 to 50 percent of Americans are suffering from these conditions – or even a combination of all three.

Until recently, the treatment of addiction, anxiety or depression was mainly limited to traditional mental health counseling, 12-step groups and prescription drugs. The results of these treatments vary greatly. Traditional addiction treatment is said to have a success rate somewhere between 10 to 30 percent. A 2010 Consumer Reports article found that around 50 percent of those receiving medication for depression or anxiety reported improvement, but all of them also reported at least one negative side effect of the drug.

But an emerging treatment holds promise to improve those statistics: mindfulness.

Originating in the East, mindfulness has gradually crept into the U.S. mental health and addiction treatment fields and is fast becoming the new buzz word in the industry. A slew of recent studies indicate its effectiveness on addiction, anxiety, depression, stress and even chronic pain. Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University have all published articles about the positive effects of mindfulness. It’s also beginning to find its way into popular culture, with a cover article in Time magazine called “The Mindful Revolution,” and features in Forbes Magazine and on cable news shows such as CNN and MSNBC.

What is mindfulness and how does it differ from traditional therapy and medication?

Whereas traditional therapy tends to focus on changing or fixing one’s thoughts and feelings, mindfulness aims at changing one’s relationship to thoughts and feelings through a process of acceptance and awareness. Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and observing thoughts and feelings coming and going in a non-judgmental, accepting way. This process of observing, rather than trying to fix or change thoughts, has a way of helping people not get “hooked” into thoughts and feelings as easily. The result can be a life lived more in the present moment, with less concentration on painful thoughts of the past and future. Mindfulness does not lead to dependency on medication and does not have the same side effects reported in medications for depression and anxiety.

Despite its increasing popularity, there is still room to grow with this new treatment, as well as issues that need to be addressed by the health care community. Mindfulness is a promising new treatment for addiction, anxiety or depression that can be practiced independently or as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

Scott Kiloby is an author and international speaker on the subject of mindfulness. He founded the Kiloby Center for Recovery in Rancho Mirage which is the first exclusively mindfulness-based addiction, anxiety and depression treatment center in the United States. For more information visit KilobyCenter.com. (442) 666.8526.

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