Meditation used as medication

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Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years.  A federal panel recently released a report with results about how meditation can actually change your brain.

Patrick Slavens says thanks to meditation, he has quit smoking and is off his ADHD medications.  "It really does work," said Slavens.  "I never thought I'd end up to be the warm, fuzzy, meditating kind of guy."  

University of Wisconsin's Dr. Richard Davidson has been studying meditation for decades.  As a friend of the Dalai Lama, he has 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, which is called neuroplasticity.  

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

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

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 mediation's effects on stress and anxiety, but the committee found there were benefits.  

Davidson, whose research has been published in several peer reviewed journals, is currently conducting a study comparing the effects of meditation versus yoga breathing on war vets with post-traumatic stress disorder.  The ongoing project will take several years.  Meditation's power to change the brain does not take that long. 

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

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