Meditation reduced opioid dose needed to ease chronic pain by 75%

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

A study published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine presents new evidence that mind-body interventions can help reduce pain in people who have been taking prescription opioids – and can lead to reductions in the drug's dose – reports Allison Aubrey for NPR.

Researchers reviewed evidence from 60 studies that included about 6,400 participants. They evaluated a range of strategies, including meditation, guided imagery, hypnosis and cognitive behavioural therapy.

"Mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy and clinical hypnosis appear to be the most useful for reducing pain," says study author Eric Garland, a professor at the University of Utah.

The reductions in dose were modest overall, he says, but the study is a signal that this approach is beneficial.

Mind-Body Therapies for Opioid-Treated PainA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

JAMA Internal Medicine, 4 November 2019


Eric L Garland, Carrie E Brintz and Adam W Hanley.

Key points

Question: Are mind-body therapies (ie, meditation, hypnosis, relaxation, guided imagery, therapeutic suggestion, and cognitive behavioural therapy) associated with pain reduction and opioid-related outcome improvement among adults using opioids for pain.

Findings: In this systematic review and meta-analysis of 60 randomized clinical trials with 6404 participants, mind-body therapies were associated with improved pain (Cohen d = −0.51; 95% CI, −0.76 to −0.27) and reduced opioid dose (Cohen d = −0.26; 95% CI, −0.44 to −0.08).

Meaning: Practitioners should be aware that mind-body therapies may be associated with moderate improvements in pain and small reductions in opioid dose.


Importance  Mind-body therapies (MBTs) are emerging as potential tools for addressing the opioid crisis. Knowing whether mind-body therapies may benefit patients treated with opioids for acute, procedural, and chronic pain conditions may be useful for prescribers, payers, policy makers, and patients.

Objective: To evaluate the association of MBTs with pain and opioid dose reduction in a diverse adult population with clinical pain.

Data sources: For this systematic review and meta-analysis, the MEDLINE, Embase, Emcare, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Cochrane Library databases were searched for English-language randomized clinical trials and systematic reviews from date of inception to March 2018. Search logic included (pain OR analgesia OR opioids) AND mind-body therapies. The gray literature,, and relevant bibliographies were also searched.

Study Selection: Randomized clinical trials that evaluated the use of MBTs for symptom management in adults also prescribed opioids for clinical pain.

Data extraction and synthesis: Independent reviewers screened citations, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. Meta-analyses were conducted using standardized mean differences in pain and opioid dose to obtain aggregate estimates of effect size with 95% CIs.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was pain intensity. The secondary outcomes were opioid dose, opioid misuse, opioid craving, disability, or function.

Results: Of 4212 citations reviewed, 60 reports with 6404 participants were included in the meta-analysis. Overall, MBTs were associated with pain reduction (Cohen d = −0.51; 95% CI, −0.76 to −0.26) and reduced opioid dose (Cohen d = −0.26; 95% CI, −0.44 to −0.08). Studies tested meditation (n = 5), hypnosis (n = 25), relaxation (n = 14), guided imagery (n = 7), therapeutic suggestion (n = 6), and cognitive behavioral therapy (n = 7) interventions.

Moderate to large effect size improvements in pain outcomes were found for meditation (Cohen d = −0.70), hypnosis (Cohen d = −0.54), suggestion (Cohen d = −0.68), and cognitive behavioral therapy (Cohen d = −0.43) but not for other MBTs. Although most meditation (n = 4 [80%]), cognitive-behavioral therapy (n = 4 [57%]), and hypnosis (n = 12 [63%]) studies found improved opioid-related outcomes, fewer studies of suggestion, guided imagery, and relaxation reported such improvements. Most MBT studies used active or placebo controls and were judged to be at low risk of bias.

Conclusions and relevance: The findings suggest that MBTs are associated with moderate improvements in pain and small reductions in opioid dose and may be associated with therapeutic benefits for opioid-related problems, such as opioid craving and misuse. Future studies should carefully quantify opioid dosing variables to determine the association of mind-body therapies with opioid-related outcomes.

Meditation Reduced The Opioid Dose She Needs To Ease Chronic Pain By 75%

Mind-Body Therapies for Opioid-Treated PainA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Receive Medical Brief's free weekly e-newsletter

Related Posts

Thank you for subscribing to MedicalBrief

MedicalBrief is Africa’s premier medical news and research weekly newsletter. MedicalBrief is published every Thursday and delivered free of charge by email to over 33 000 health professionals.

Please consider completing the form below. The information you supply is optional and will only be used to compile a demographic profile of our subscribers. Your personal details will never be shared with a third party.

Thank you for taking the time to complete the form.