Opioid Use Disorder: Rutgers Study Demonstrates Improved Mood and Emotional Regulation with Guided Mindfulness

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Suchismita Ray, Ph.D.
Associate Professor                                      
Department of Health Informatics            
Rutgers School of Health Professions
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Newark, NJ 07101

Dr. Suchismita Ray
Photo by John O’Boyle

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In this pilot study, we examined longer-term changes after the Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) intervention and immediate effects of a brief MORE guided meditation session in women with opioid use disorder (OUD) who were on medications for OUD (MOUD). Participants completed the first assessment, then the 8-week MORE intervention (once weekly for two hours) during residential treatment, and then the second assessment.

The assessments were identical and conducted at Rutgers University Brain Imaging Center in Newark.

First, participants completed an emotion regulation questionnaire, and then they entered the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) environment for scanning. Participants listened to a 10-minute guided MORE meditation in the scanner while viewing a picture of an outdoor garden, and brain images were recorded to measure functional connectivity (i.e., brain communication) during the meditation. We examined the immediate effects of a 10-minute guided MORE meditation on mood and craving. We further examined the effects of 8-week MORE intervention on changes in emotional regulation difficulty and brain communication.

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Our results showed that emotional regulation improved following 8-week MORE intervention in opioid-using women on MOUD. More specifically, study participants’ impulse control difficulty and lack of emotional awareness improved significantly.

The 8-week MORE intervention also resulted in significantly increased brain functional connectivity (communication) between:
(1) prefrontal regulatory/emotional regions and
(2) prefrontal regulatory/reward processing regions. In addition, positive mood increased significantly before to after the 10-minute guided MORE meditation at both pre- and post-8-week MORE intervention.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our study demonstrates that women with OUD showed improved ability to control their negative emotion after 8-weeks of MORE intervention. This behavioral finding agrees with our brain data.

Specifically, we show that the 8-week MORE intervention created long-term improvement in communication between brain areas that may help women with OUD to better control their negative emotion and drug craving. Together, these changes may help in reducing opioid relapse since the prior studies have shown that inability to handle negative emotion and drug craving are major determinants of drug relapse.

In addition, we show that a single 10-minute guided MORE meditation without any prior meditation experience improved participants’ positive mood immediately. This finding has real life significance. To give an example, suppose an opioid user is currently experiencing stress or craving for opioid, the person can immediately practice a 10-minute MORE meditation which will improve the person’s mood in-the-moment and thus he/she may not go for the drug. Importantly, if the same person can take part in the 8-week MORE intervention protocol, he/she will experience long-term benefits to control negative emotion and opioid craving and thus he/she may maintain sobriety.

Suchismita Ray, Jamil Bhanji, Nicole Kennelly, Helen C. Fox, Patricia Dooley Budsock, Mauricio Delgado, Nina A. Cooperman, Eric L Garland,
Mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement in opioid use disorder: Extended emotional regulation and neural effects and immediate effects of guided meditation in a pilot sample,
EXPLORE,2023,,ISSN 1550-8307,


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Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by PainRelief.com