Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs cause untold damage, but their users derive some kind of pleasure from them, or at least relief from the massive stress that they would otherwise feel. But by exposing their minds to a greater source of satisfaction, the natural tendency would be to head away from the addiction, because the greater satisfaction is more appealing. Support for this new view has existed for almost 20 years.
Going back to the early 1970s, studies in the United States and Europe have repeatedly shown that when addicted people are taught to meditate, their level of anxiety decreases, pulling down with it their use of alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs.
If the addiction is caught at an early stage, a large proportion of subjects will stop abusing substances altogether. This is a very important point, because the early stage is where most cures are possible.
By removing the distractions of stress, meditation renews the nervous system’s memory of balance. Repeated meditation, day after day, jogs the memory again and again, until in time the cells return to a normal state, exchanging their abnormal receptors for a more normal pattern. Once the pathways of intelligence are repaired, the cells will automatically select the body’s healthy signals, as once they automatically accepted the distorted ones. The circle broken by addiction has been repaired.
Adapted from Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide, by Deepak Chopra, M.D. (Harmony Books, 1990).