Enhancing Recovery Treatment
Through Transcendental Meditation®
Through Transcendental Meditation®
The nation’s drug overdose epidemic continues to worsen. There were more than 107,000 reported deaths attributed to drug overdoses in the U.S. between December 2020 to December 2021. The epidemic is driven by fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine, often used in some combination. While adults ages 18 to 25 have the highest rate of drug use, substance use among adults ages 26–49 is also on the rise:
- Cocaine-involved overdose rates in the U.S. have risen annually since 2012.
- The U.S. remains in an opioids misuse crisis. In 2021 there were 80,816 opioid overdose deaths in the US, more than US citizens dying in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Most of those were opioid related. That is the highest single year ever reported.
- Meth use is on the rise and overdose death rates climbed more than five times for people ages 25 to 54 between 2011 and 2018.
In response, the American Medical Association is urging policymakers’ to increase access to evidence-based care for substance use disorder (SUD).
For nearly 20 years, the Center for Recovery & Mental Health of the David Lynch Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, has worked to help people experiencing SUD and trauma by offering the evidenced-based
Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique. TM is a simple, easy-to-learn approach to aiding SUD treatment, as well as reducing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and insomnia while improving health and promoting greater resilience to stress. The Center for Recovery & Mental Health has provided TM training to many individuals in recovery throughout the US, through partnerships with recovery centers, including Samaritan Daytop Village, Phoenix House, Freedom House, Avery Road Treatment Center, Friends Research Institute, and Central Nassau Guidance and Counseling.
Stress and craving and the whole intersection of psychological variables play a critical role in the relapse process and I see meditation in general and TM specifically as having great promise in relapse prevention."
TM an Introduction
TM is a mental technique for deep relaxation and stress-reduction that has been successfully offered in recovery centers, police departments, fire departments, medical schools, academic and VA medical centers, hospitals, military academies, prisons, and other settings. The TM technique is practiced for 15-20 minutes twice a day, sitting comfortably in a chair. To date, more than ten million people of all ages, nationalities, and religions have learned the technique.
TM practice produces a unique neurophysiological state that combines deep metabolic rest with heightened mental alertness. This state of deep relaxation, which researchers have termed “restful alertness,” is a potent antidote to stress. Hundreds of peer-reviewed published studies on TM have documented improvements in a wide variety of stress-related disorders, as well as significant improvements in cognitive function and overall health and well-being. The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense have awarded over $30 million in grant support for research on TM.
A National SummitRecovery, Meditation and the Brain
How TM Works to Help Treat SUD
and Trauma in Conjunction with
Traditional Recovery Programs
It’s common for people to use drugs or alcohol to manage their triggers or PTSD symptoms. Untreated PTSD is a major contributing factor to SUD rates among our nation’s first responders. Even those who are seeking treatment for their PTSD are 14 times more likely to also be diagnosed with SUD. The good news is that the Veterans Administration has found treating substance use disorder and PTSD concurrently works to treat both conditions.
TM is best used as an adjunct to conventional rehabilitation programs, according to Stuart Rothenberg, MD, a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and Chief Medical Officer of the DLF Center for Recovery & Mental Health. Researchers working with some of the most difficult-to-treat patient populations concluded that adding TM to AA and conventional counseling programs significantly enhanced their effectiveness. People in 12-step recovery programs who learned TM—including Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, who learned TM late in his life—have commented that it fulfills the 11th step, which encourages meditation.
TM practice has been shown to increase production of neurochemicals associated with happiness and fulfillment—including dopamine, serotonin, and gabaminobutyric acid (GABA). Increase in these neurotransmitters reduces autonomic arousal and anxiety—decreasing the need for drugs or alcohol. During the practice of the TM technique, research has documented a unique state of brain integration. The electroencephalograms (or brain-wave patterns) of TM practitioners typically display high levels of orderliness, or coherence, suggesting greater communication among the different parts of the brain. In addition the EEG coherence found during TM practice is particularly strong in the front of the brain—the “prefrontal cortex” (PFC). Brain-imaging studies also show increased blood flow in this part of the brain. This is highly significant, as the PFC is known to be the seat of crucial higher-level executive functions, including healthy decision-making ability, focus, impulse control (willpower), moral judgment, and organizational skills. Strengthening this critical area helps a person struggling with SUD gain mastery over emotions and cravings.
Researchon TM and Substance Use Disorder
Several statistical meta-analyses have indicated that the TM technique produces significantly larger reductions in tobacco, alcohol, and non-prescribed drug use than standard substance abuse treatments and standard prevention programs. Whereas the effects of conventional programs typically fall off rapidly within three months, effects of the TM technique increase over time. References: 1. Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly 11 (1994): 13–87. 2. Cardiology Research and Practice (2011): 1-8.
A published review of
25 studies found that TM
reduces substance abuse as
well as underlying symptoms including
anxiety, depression, and
Longitudinal, random-assignment studies with objective measures confirm the results of retrospective studies and other earlier research. Incarcerated offenders who practiced TM showed rapid positive changes in risk factors associated with criminal behavior, including anxiety, aggression, hostility, moral judgment, in-prison rule infractions, and substance abuse. The substance abuse studies, taken together, indicate that the TM program reduces substance use as well as a number of the risk factors that underlie substance dependence, particularly anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and other forms of psychological distress.
Additional Research on TM
and Substance Use Disorder
- Practicing TM may help prevent relapse in patients who have undergone inpatient treatment for alcohol use, according to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. The study followed sixty adults with alcohol use disorder (AUD) for 3 months after finishing inpatient treatment. Half were taught TM while at the treatment facility, while the other half received usual care. The study found that acceptability and uptake of TM was high: At follow-up, 85% of those who learned TM were still meditating on most days, and 61% were closely adherent to the recommended practice of doing TM twice daily. None of the participants who were closely adherent to TM returned to heavy drinking at follow-up, in contrast to nearly half of the remaining sample.
- In a 2-year research study TM was found to be an effective and appropriate treatment modality for disadvantaged populations experiencing chronic substance use disorder. Taub, Steiner, Weingarten, & Walton, 1978, (1994), USA
- In a 3-month, longitudinal study with random selection of Vietnam veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the Denver Veterans Center, it was found that TM may reduce substance abuse by relieving psychological distress, as indicated by decreased depression, anxiety, emotional numbness, family problems, difficulty in getting a job, insomnia, and overall PTSD symptoms. Brooks & Scarano, (1985), USA
A sustained commitment to addressing our national crisis of Substance Use Disorderamong first responders, and veteransby providing them with the high standard of evidenced-based care they deserve.
The Center for Recovery & Mental Health has provided TM training to many thousands of people in recovery throughout the US, including first responders, front-line healthcare workers, students and military veterans. Some of our first responder recovery program partners include FDNY, NYPD, LAFD, and Samaritan Daytop Village residential substance abuse treatments centers in New York City.
Phase 3 clinical trial
A Phase 3 Clinical Trial on TM,
Posttraumatic Stress, Suicide, and Substance
Use in Veterans and First Responders
The Center for Recovery & Mental Health is currently supporting the largest study ever to be conducted on the impact of meditation on veterans and first responders with PTSD. The study is a multi-site randomized controlled trial that will evaluate whether the TM technique is effective as a first line treatment for PTSD. Secondary outcomes will include depression, suicidal ideation, alcohol craving/usage, sleep quality and quality of life. Support for the project came from the National Center for PTSD. The 6-site study will take place at research universities around the U.S. with approximately 360 subjects. The goal of the study is to secure long-term government funding for veterans with PTSD and SUD nationwide.
The primary outcome measure in this clinical trial will be the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS) for DSM-5. Secondary outcome measures will include the Columbia–Suicide Severity Rating Scale, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL)-5, Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-9 for depression, Insomnia Severity Index, Timeline Follow-Back (TLFB) interview for alcohol consumption and other non-prescribed substance usage, and the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire (QLES-Q). A cost-effectiveness analysis will be conducted to determine the cost-saving value of the TM program in the treatment of PTSD.
The impact of this proposed study will be substantial. The research will be used to secure government approval for the implementation of TM as a treatment option in VA healthcare and other military and first responder settings. The availability of an alternative and evidence-based PTSD and SUD treatment will benefit patients by offering a greater range of treatment options and by serving as a secondary modality for those not responding to prior therapy. In particular, because TM is a non-trauma focused treatment, it is often preferred to other existing treatments for PTSD therapies that involve confronting anxiety-provoking thoughts and stimuli. TM is relatively low cost and provides a life-long self-care tool for promoting mental and physical health. Other benefits of TM include being less emotionally demanding for patients compared to other PTSD and SUD therapies, producing noticeable benefits within the first month of practice, and being self-empowering to veterans and first responders through regular daily home practice.
“After my first weekend retreat as a new meditator I gave up smoking and found the taste of alcohol distasteful…It created within me a heightened sense of awareness and a deep internal cleansing."
“I have a lot less anger and a much clearer mind … I believe that TM has been a major factor in my being sober today. I cannot express in words the rewards that I receive daily through meditating."
“When I transcended, I connected with something permanent, something I’d been seeking all my life…Transcendence treated the hole in my soul."
A Three-Phase Program
For Recovery from Substance Use Disorder
Phase OneIntroduction to the TM Technique
This session provides an introduction to the evidence-based TM technique and an overview of the structure and content of the Recovery Program.
Session 1 (Group, on-site or remote; 60 minutes)
- The urgent need for an evidence-based meditation technique to support mental and physical well-being in today’s highly stressful environment
- Meditation defined: Understanding the mechanics and scientific research on the three main approaches to meditation: (1) focused attention, (2) open monitoring, and (3) self-transcending
- Understanding the mechanics of TM practice: How it works, what it does, and how it is taught
- Highlights of the published research on the benefits of TM for improving mental and physical health, creativity and cognitive function, productivity and performance
- Questions and answers
Phase TwoInstruction in the TM Technique
The participant is instructed by a certified TM instructor in how to meditate correctly for maximum benefit in daily life. TM instructions will be carried out in partnership with affiliated institutions.
Four instructional sessions held over four consecutive days
(On-site; 60 minutes each)
- Session 1: Personal instruction in the TM technique (Individual, on-site)
- Session 2: Ensuring you are meditating correctly and gaining the benefits (Group, on-site)
- Session 3: Understanding the mechanics of how TM restores balance and reduces stress in the nervous system (Group, on-site)
- Session 4: Exploring the long-term benefits of regular TM practice for optimizing mental and physical health (Group, on-site)
Phase ThreeFollow-up seminars
These seminars help stabilize correct practice of the TM technique and deepen participants’ intellectual understanding of its mechanics and effects. Four seminars held once a month (Group, on-site or remote; 45 minutes each)
Each seminar includes:
Deeper knowledge on a range of topics, including:
- Effects of TM on neuroplasticity: the capacity of the brain to heal stress and trauma and forge new neural pathways for healthier behaviors and lifestyle
- Enhancing resilience as the key to reducing the impact of stress and promoting wellness
- Impact of TM on improving cardiovascular health, strengthening immunity, and slowing the aging process
- Growth of happiness, self-actualization, and development of consciousness through regular TM practice
- A review of key points for correct TM practice
- Questions and answers
- Group meditation
Lifetime Support and Follow-Up
Following the three phases of the program, a lifetime of individual and group refresher courses is available for free, remotely or in-person, through more than 200 TM Teaching Centers within the United States.
Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation, by Norman Rosenthal, M.D. (Tarcher-Penguin 2011)
Super Mind: How to Boost Performance and Live a Richer and Happier Life through Transcendental Meditation, by Norman Rosenthal, M.D. (Tarcher-Penguin 2016)
Strength in Stillness: The Power of Transcendental Meditation, by Bob Roth (Simon and Schuster 2018)