What Does Buddhism Say About Drugs and Addiction? By Guest Author, Patrick Bailey

What Does Buddhism Say About Drugs and Addiction? By Guest Author, Patrick Bailey

What Buddhism says about addictionsBuddhism is an ancient religion that originated in India more than 2,000 years ago.  Many of its teachings still resonate today with millions of followers all over the world. But we don’t need to be a practicing Buddhist to learn from their teachings or improve our lives.  Mindfulness, meditation and Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths are a few of the tools available for us all.

The Four Noble Truths:
  1. Life is suffering: No matter how wonderful a person’s life may be, existence contains suffering from the very beginning of life to the very end.
  2. Suffering is caused by ignorance: Suffering occurs when people ignore the true nature of reality resulting from craving, attachment and grasping.
  3. Suffering can be overcome: We can overcome suffering by overcoming this ignorance and attachment.
  4. The Noble Eightfold Path: Suffering can be overcome by following the Noble Eightfold Path based on moral conduct, mental discipline and wisdom. Tricycle.org explains clearly and simply what this means in an article titled “The Noble Eightfold Path, Buddha’s Practical Instruction to Reach the End of Suffering” by Walpola Sri Rahula.  The Eightfold path includes; right intuition, right cognition, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation.

These Buddhist Four Noble Truths may seem harsh to some but they have led millions of people to achieve peace and harmony in their lives.  And, as stated above, we can choose to use only what is meaningful or helpful to us personally.  By applying Buddhists philosophies to overcome and better understand how drugs and addiction can cause suffering, mindfulness is one path to take…

Practicing Mindfulness to Treat Addictions

We could all use mindfulness to ease suffering. By focusing on the present moment, mindfulness is a strategy to aid in treating addictions of all kinds including addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Mindfulness can help quiet addictive cravings. Instead of fixating on harmful substances, we can focus on developing compassion and self-love.  In other words, mindfulness can make it easier to manage cravings by allowing us to manage emotional triggers and addictive desires.

Practicing such techniques helps us become detached from society’s idea of what it means to be happy and successful. It can help us move forward in life and create our own definitions of what it means to be content, happy, and successful.  Or, in the words of a popular movie song, mindfulness helps us to…” let it go!”.

Mindfulness in Action

As humans we want to experience pleasure and avoid pain.  Mindfulness is a skill that we can use throughout the course of the day to fight cravings  associated with addiction or other challenges.  Focusing on even simple chores, like making the bed, doing dishes or paying bills, we can be mindful and stay in the present moment.

Addictions are associated with various triggers. This means that using drugs or alcohol as ways to cope with pain and strife is a way people use to face things that emotionally trigger these responses. Rather than working to explore and get to the root of why they are experiencing these negative feelings, those who are addicted tend to go on autopilot. They seek substances that can provide immediate (yet temporary) relief from those unpleasant emotions. As an alternative, using mindful practices can help avoid emotional triggers.

Mindful Practices to Avoid Emotional Triggers:
  1. Observing: Paying close attention to surroundings and figuring out what could be causing triggers and why.
  2. Describing: Taking time to describe feelings.
  3. Participating: Engaging in activities that allow participation without judging.
  4. Taking a nonjudgmental stance: Resisting the urge to feel bad or guilty about cravings. Instead, accept that they’re happening and need to be worked through.
  5. Focusing on one thing in the moment: Remember to focus only on the task at hand while putting everything else out of mind.
  6. Determining effectiveness: Focusing on doing what works to stay healthy. For instance, if you played a video game to fight a craving, you can remember that this activity fought a trigger and prevented the use of alcohol or drugs.

More people are also embracing meditation to heal from drug or alcohol addiction. Centers that offer rehabilitation for alcohol addiction often encourage meditation and other healthy practices. When clients leave recovery centers, meditation can reinforce the coping skills they learned during treatment.

Buddhism recognizes that life contains suffering and provides ways to overcome it. Using a combination of tools including mindfulness and meditation there is hope for those who are struggling with any addiction, including drugs and alcohol.

Note: Patrick Bailey is a professional writer and blogger focused on mental illness and addiction.  You can find more of Patrick’s excellent articles at www.patrickbaileys.com and follow him on Twitter @Pat_Bailey80


  1. Philosophy of Religion https://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialsciences/ppecorino/phil_of_religion_text/CHAPTER_2_RELIGIONS/Buddhism.htm
  2. Mindfulness: The Missing Piece in Addiction: https://digitalcommons.lesley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=mindfulness_theses
  3. Can Mindfulness Help Stop Substance Abuse? https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_mindfulness_help_stop_substance_abuse
  4. Mindfulness Therapy as an Addiction Treatment https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-mindfulness-21854
  5. Mindfulness-based treatment of addiction: current state of the field and envisioning the next wave of research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5907295/
  6. Mindfulness and Addiction Recovery https://mindworks.org/blog/mindfulness-addiction-recovery/
  7. Mindfulness: how it can help beat addiction https://mindfulness4u.org/beat-addiction/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.