The opioid epidemic in America has touched the lives of millions of either directly or indirectly. Due to this there is a critical need to provide alternative approaches capable of minimizing opioid dependence. Bridgette Vest, DNP, PMHNP-BC, GNP-BC and her research team members hypothesize that the practice of mindfulness, along with other therapeutic modalities, empowers patients with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) to minimize dependence on opioids. This will be achieved by helping patients learn to effectively manage pain and stress, which is the key reason for relapse in opioid use. The practice of mindfulness has recently gained acceptance by healthcare providers such as: psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and advanced practice providers who are involved in the management of patients with OUD. To test this hypothesis, the research team will recruit patients with OUD from the Buprenorphine Clinic at the Salem VA Medical Center. Buprenorphine/naloxone is a combination medication used to treat opioid dependence and prevent accidental overdose and this clinic treats many Veterans in Southwest Virginia with dependence on opioids.
Dr. Vest has submitted a research proposal with National Institutes of Health (NIH) which will bring together an interdisciplinary team with expertise in the practice of mindfulness, as well as in treating Veterans with OUD, pain management, and in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mood disorders. Research team members hold leadership positions in the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health, and in Departments of Psychiatry, Mental Health Nursing, and Mental Health Research in local academic institutions. The team is also heavily supported by key community leaders who are concerned with the opioid epidemic in Southwest Virginia. Local not-for-profit organizations, whose mission is to prevent and treat mental illness and substance abuse, have also enthusiastically joined. It is anticipated that the outcomes of this interdisciplinary research will establish efficacy and specific guidelines for the practice of mindfulness helping Veterans with OUD to minimize opioid dependence.
This research will consist of 8 mindfulness sessions over a 2-week interval and will be open to Veterans currently enrolled in the Buprenorphine Program. After each mindfulness session, the Veteran shall document the final pain level and take notes of their response to the session. Following completion of the program, the Veterans will summarize the experience through written/digitalized storytelling and visual art. Weather permitting, these sessions will be held on the new labyrinth at the Salem VAMC Campus. Often a labyrinth is confused with or assimilated with a maze, but where a maze is designed to challenge the mind in contrast a labyrinth is an easy to follow, meandering, spiraling circular path leading one to the center and back out again. This labyrinth is a modified Chartres pattern which is four quadrants with paths that double back on one another. It has east, west, north, south points and the pattern of a cross inside it. Use of the labyrinth is designed to bring stillness and calm to the mind aiding in the mindfulness of one’s mental and physical state. The labyrinth has a beautiful view of the sky above it and is ready for walking. However, the entire garden space surrounding it is awaiting completion to allow for seclusion and quiet. It is our hope to complete the garden this Spring. The Salem Research Institute is seeking donations to aid in the completion of the garden to provide this therapeutic intervention area to our Veterans.