Meditation as Medication

Published 01/15 2013 01:40PM

Updated 01/15 2013 09:30PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Can you use meditation as medication?

A federal panel says it may be so.

Patrick Slavens often found himself caught up with the rush of everyday life.

His ADHD and smoking habit didn't help.

Then, the former marine tried meditation, something he never imagined.

"I never thought I'd end up to be the warm, fuzzy, meditating kinda guy," he says.

However, Dr. Richard J. Davidson, Psychology and Psychiatry Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says science backs meditation up as a therapy.

"It's the kind of thing that has very, very few downsides."

Dr. Davidson has been studying meditation for decades.

A friend of the Dalai Lama, he's scanned the brains of Buddhist monks as they meditated.

He says the brain can actually make new connections, even grow new neurons in this state.

It's called neuroplasticity.

He believes with practice, meditation can improve symptoms of social anxiety, phobias and inflammatory problems like asthma or psoriasis.

He says it should only be a supplement to other therapy.

"My own view is that it's best considered as an adjunct, it shouldn't be thought of as a replacement for conventional treatment."

A government panel just reviewed 34 meditation trials with 3,000 participants and found it can reduce chronic and acute pain.

The evidence is weaker on meditation's effects on stress and anxiety, but the committee found there were benefits.

Patrick says thanks to meditation, he's quit smoking and is off his ADHD meds.

Dr. Davidson says his studies show neuroplasticity can occur in as little as two weeks if you meditate every day for 30 minutes.

His research has been published in several peer reviewed journals.

He is currently conducting a study comparing the effects of meditation versus yoga breathing on war vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The ongoing project will take several years.

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