Meditation: a Painkiller More Effective than Morphine

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A simple meditation can be better than drugs for relieving pain. (Image Mikhail Nilov via Pexels)

Do you know anyone who suffers from chronic pain? How many people take a cocktail of painkillers just to get by? If there were an inexpensive, effective alternative, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Meditation, in fact, is not only effective in relieving pain, one study found it to be more effective than morphine. On top of that, one can meditate as often and as long as one wants, with no negative side effects, and at little or no cost. 

An article published in The Journal of Neuroscience demonstrates that  80 minutes of meditation training can dramatically reduce pain, suggesting that meditation is more effective in relieving pain than medication, including the powerful and addictive morphine.

The research was conducted with 15 volunteers; six  male and nine female participants who were exposed to heat stimulus before and after they were given meditation training. A heating probe was gradually warmed to 120° Fahrenheit, a temperature which most people find painful, over a 5-minute period, while their response was monitored through a brain scan.

The test subjects received four 20-minute meditation training sessions after the first exposure. A second exposure to the heating probe was conducted while the subjects meditated, to measure the change in the sensation of pain. According to the findings, the pain felt was, on average, reduced by 57%, and the pain intensity reduced by 40%. In comparison, the rate of pain reduction with morphine was only 25%.

Brain scans found that the pain-sensitive area in the brain became calmer after meditation.

The researcher said that this was the first time it was demonstrated that an hour of meditation could dramatically reduce pain and pain-related brain activities. That is to say, meditation can be truly effective, and help reduce pain without medication.

All drugs have some side effects, and painkillers such as morphine can cause addiction. Meditation, on the other hand, has no negative side effects and can be done at no cost in your own home.

Research partner F. Zeidan said, “This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications.” Given how little training is needed to produce such dramatic effects, meditation is a must-try for people who suffer physical pain. 

  • Born and raised in China, Lucy Crawford has been living in Canada for over 20 years. She has great sympathy for Chinese and human suffering in general. With a Master's degree in Education and having worked on various professions, she now translates and writes about stories in ancient and modern China. She lives in Calgary with her husband and four children.