Can meditating help addiction?

meditating for addiction by the pool at Lanna Rehab

Can meditating help addiction?

Meditation and mindfulness in rehab

A growing body of studies supports that meditating can help with the recovery of addiction. It can, in fact, change our brains. One of the most groundbreaking studies, by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Lazar in 2005, examined how regular mindfulness exercises can literally “grow” the prefrontal cortex by making it thicker.


Personalised meditation for addiction recovery

Moo, our own team member who trained as a monk for over 5 years, says “meditation lets you see what is happening within. It gives you perspective. If you can see clearly, you can have the power to make a choice instead of acting on your immediate emotions.”

Moo who uses mindfulness, awareness, and concentration together, says every lesson he gives is unique because everyone’s experiences are unique. Meditating for addiction recovery needs to be tailored to be most effective.

“I adapt the lesson to the individual,” says Moo, “I have to work out how to teach them, how they can best understand it. I also have to understand how they will apply it. No two people have the same experiences so no two people will get the same lesson from me.”

The practices Moo teaches can be applied to family-life or work-life.

“No matter what you see or face in your life, through meditating, you can have less suffering – or no suffering – in your life.”

Path to rehab: From chef in Boston to meditating for addiction in Thailand

Moo’s own life experiences have given him the insight to personalise these programs. As well as studying to be a monk in the jungle of Thailand for over 5 years in his thirties, which he says some people would consider “a bit extreme,” he studied the culinary arts and worked as a chef in the United States and The United Kingdom.

“I started training to be a monk when I was just a teenager, but my father wanted me to study. Four years later I was qualified as a chef. I starting working in Thailand, but my work took me to Boston, in America. I was this young 21-year-old who didn’t speak English. The first night I arrived I slept on the street because I didn’t know how to ask for directions.”

Moo went on to have a successful career and worked in Michelin star restaurants in the United States and the United Kingdom, but “I came home to Thailand”. His story is relatable to many young people who travel overseas for a number of years, and then make the trip home.

“I went back to being a monk because I had a lot of suffering. I wanted to practice more to face – everything.”

Challenge lead to rewarding new skills

During Moo’s return to studying as a monk, he lived in the jungle in a monastery for over 5 years. His most challenging year turned into his most rewarding when he was tasked with caring for the unwell monks.

“Caring for the monks meant being in the hospital in a small room for 9 months. Every day in a small room. Some people would say it’s like a jail. When you are a monk, you wear the robes and people look at you and they expect certain behavior. You are expected to be constantly composed and face everything with no signs of suffering. That was a lot of pressure but very good practice.”

The general manager of the hospital saw Moo caring for the other monks, in the same room every day. He might have seen how dedicated he was, and he wanted to give him the tools to do better. So, he sent Moo to study. Moo studied massage, cupping, acupuncture, and medical herbs. This was the first time he had cared for others in a healthcare environment, and it gave him some of the tools he would apply years later for his clients in addiction recovery.

Mindfulness contributes to recovery: Meditating for addiction

At Lanna Rehab, we work with a range of people from different backgrounds. Our therapists and network of carers aim to give our clients the tools to help them with their futures.

Meditation is just one aspect of treatment that is offered to complement broader therapies.


Anne Lazarakis joined the Lanna Rehab team in 2019, from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health as a global issue, often focusing on our own client experiences and linking these to broader social trends. Before joining our team, she worked for several health services with a focus on equality of care, including the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation. Mental health - particularly addiction - is often stigmatised. Stigmas associated with these areas prevent people from seeking help and recovering. Barriers can be gender, religion, or culturally-based. In some parts of the world mental health is not even recognised as a health condition. By sharing people's stories, and making information more readily available, Anne advocates for accessibility of care for all.

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