Yoga Helps Reduce Opioid
Yoga Helps Reduce Opioid
Health Care

How Yoga Helps Reduce Opioid Use Disorder by Increasing GABA Levels


Increasing GABA Levels

Introduction and Understanding narcotics and narcotic Use Disorder (OUD)

Narcotics are chemicals that help reduce pain. They can be natural, semi-synthetic, or synthetic. Natural opioids, called opiates, come from poppy plants. Narcotics include prescription drugs like codeine, tramadol, tapentadol, and morphine, as well as street drugs like heroin and brown sugar, and practicing yoga for opioid recovery can help manage withdrawal symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Narcotic Use Disorder (OUD) is a serious condition where people become dependent on narcotics. This dependency can cause severe withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Watery eyes and nose
  • Severe body aches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Chronic use of narcotics can impair cognition, cause sexual dysfunction, disrupt social and occupational functions, and create a financial burden.

The Role of Yoga in Managing OUD

Dr. Hemant Bhargav from the Integrated Centre for Yoga at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru conducted a study to see if yoga could help reduce narcotic use. The study found that yoga increases brain gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels. GABA, along with oxytocin, helps manage narcotic withdrawal symptoms and reduce relapse rates.

Benefits of Yoga for OUD Patients

Yoga has several benefits for people with OUD:

  • Increases GABA levels in the brain
  • Enhances prefrontal activation
  • Reduces impulsivity
  • Promotes positive behavioral changes
  • Improves self-regulation

Clinical Study on Yoga and OUD

An initial clinical case study followed patients for 9 months and found that yoga helped relieve symptoms in those suffering from narcotic dependence. A subsequent randomized controlled trial with 60 subjects divided them into two groups:

  1. One group practiced yoga in addition to standard therapy.
  2. The other group performed exercises in addition to standard treatment.

After 12 weeks, the yoga group was 2.68 times more likely to have negative urine screenings for narcotics than the exercise group.

10 Important Points 

  • Yoga for Opioid Addiction

    • Practicing yoga can be an effective approach to managing narcotic addiction.
  • Yoga for Opioid Dependency

    • Incorporating yoga into treatment plans can significantly help those struggling with narcotic dependency.
  • Yoga for Opioid Use Disorder

    • Studies have shown that yoga can aid in the recovery process for individuals with narcotic use disorder.
  • Yoga for Opioid Recovery

    • Yoga can play a crucial role in the journey of narcotic recovery by promoting mental and physical well-being.
  • Yoga for Opioid Abuse Treatment

    • Integrating yoga into narcotic abuse treatment programs can enhance overall outcomes for patients.
  • Yoga for Overcoming Opioid Dependence

    • Many people have found success in overcoming narcotic dependence through regular yoga practice.
  • Yoga Therapy for opioid dependency

    • Yoga therapy offers a holistic approach to addressing the challenges of narcotic dependence.
  • Yoga Practices for Opioid Addiction

    • Specific yoga practices can help alleviate the symptoms associated with narcotic addiction.
  • Yoga Interventions for Opioid Dependency

    • Research supports the use of yoga interventions as a complementary treatment for narcotic dependency.
  • Yoga Support for Opioid Rehabilitation

    • Providing yoga support can significantly aid in the rehabilitation process for individuals recovering from narcotic dependence.
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Yoga for Opioid Use Disorder

Positive Outcomes from Yoga

The study suggested that yoga is an effective tool to enhance abstinence and reduce substance use severity in people with narcotic dependence. The yoga group also experienced:

  • Significant reduction in pain
  • Decreased cravings
  • Lower anxiety and depression levels
  • Improved quality of life and sleep

Brain Activation and Yoga

When patients with OUD viewed opioid-related cues, their bilateral brain regions activated. These regions are involved in:

  • Salience Attribution (Anterior Cingulate and Insula)
  • Brain arousal and stress systems (extended amygdala-hippocampal areas)

This activation suggested a mechanism through which yoga reduced cravings and improved abstinence. Yoga also appeared to reduce ruminations and help people relax better, improving the disease’s pathophysiology.

Yoga and Chronic Pain in India

A paper by Dr. Bhargav and his team noted that 34% of the Indian population suffering from chronic pain, especially females, chose yoga and meditation. Yoga can enhance pain thresholds and provide deep relaxation and calmness, offering a natural “high.


Yoga can be a powerful addition to traditional therapies for those struggling with narcotic dependence. By increasing GABA levels in the brain and promoting overall well-being, yoga helps manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and improve the quality of life for OUD patients.


By incorporating yoga into the treatment plan, individuals battling narcotic dependence can find relief and support in their journey toward recovery.

About the author

Zubair Khan

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