Meditation or Medication? Today’s Plague of Pill-popping

An estimated 80 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the American Chronic Pain Association, but women experience pain more often and with greater intensity. Research also shows men and women respond differently to pain medications, and in fact use separate mechanisms in the brain to achieve pain relief.

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that overdose deaths in the United States are rising quickly among middle-aged women, and their drug of choice is usually a prescription painkiller, the government reported.  “Mothers, wives, sisters and daughters are dying at rates that we have never seen before,” said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, which compiled the data. This number has increased by more than 400 percent in the past decade. The combination of the drugs being more readily available and health professionals overprescribing is proving to be deadly for many Americans.

“It’s a serious health problem and it’s getting worse rapidly,” said Dr. Frieden. “We live in a pill for every ill society, and prescription drugs are just one aspect of the overall addiction problem we have in this country,” said Susan Foster, the vice president and director of policy research and analysis for CASA Columbia, a New York  think tank that studies substance abuse and its effect on public policy.

If a person is in pain, what is the alternative to prescription painkillers? If you have chronic pain and are looking for alternatives to medication and surgery, you have a lot of options. Acupuncture, exercise, yoga, chiropractic manipulation, physical therapy, massage therapy, and stress management techniques are a few of the alternatives which are used to manage chronic pain.

Research shows that regular practice of the stress reducing Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique decreases back pain, headache and chronic pain. The TM technique also resets the body’s perception of pain and anticipation of pain. Research also shows that the Transcendental Meditation technique will reduce pain-related stress, insomnia and even depression. These chronic symptoms are often associated with low back or chronic back pain, which afflicts up to 40% of the population at some point in their lives.

Christopher Clark, M.D., says, “Many people have found that practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique helps reduce the need for medication. This is significant, because chronic pain is a huge problem in America today. Most patients end up going to chronic pain clinics, where they take heavy medications such as morphine, and even become addicted. Pain medications can affect cognition, make it difficult to concentrate, or even cause memory impairment.”

Dr. Clark concludes, “The Transcendental Meditation technique is the opposite. As shown by research, TM reduces the perception and anticipation of pain without negative side effects. Research shows that it improves anxiety, depression, concentration and memory, and results in greater alertness and efficiency in action. For all of these reasons, practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique is a cost-effective way to deal with pain without side effects.”

About the Author

Vanessa Vidal is the national director of TM for Women in the USA

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