Mindfulness-oriented recovery enhancement reduces opioid dose in primary care by strengthening autonomic regulation during meditation

Am Psychol. 2020 Sep;75(6):840-852. doi: 10.1037/amp0000638.


The current opioid crisis was fueled by escalation of opioid dosing among patients with chronic pain. Yet, there are few evidence-based psychological interventions for opioid dose reduction among chronic pain patients treated with long-term opioid analgesics. Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), which was designed to target mechanisms underpinning chronic pain and opioid misuse, has shown promising results in 2 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and could facilitate opioid sparing and tapering by bolstering self-regulation. Here we tested this hypothesis with secondary analyses of data from a Stage 2 RCT. Chronic pain patients (N = 95) on long-term opioid therapy were randomized to 8 weeks of MORE or a support group (SG) control delivered in primary care. Opioid dose was assessed with the Timeline Followback through 3-month follow-up. Heart rate variability (HRV) during mindfulness meditation was quantified as an indicator of self-regulatory capacity. Participants in MORE evidenced a greater decrease in opioid dosing (a 32% decrease) by follow-up than did the SG, F(2, 129.77) = 5.35, p = .006, d = 1.07. MORE was associated with a significantly greater increase in HRV during meditation than was the SG. Meditation-induced change in HRV partially mediated the effect of MORE on opioid dose reduction (p = .034). MORE may boost self-regulatory strength via mindfulness and thereby facilitate self-control over opioid use, leading to opioid dose reduction in people with chronic pain. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03298269.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Primary Health Care*


  • Analgesics, Opioid

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03298269