U.S. Spent $410,624 on Project to Teach Chinese Meditation to Cocaine Addicts

By Jane McGrath | July 8, 2010 | 6:53 PM EDT

Members of Falun Gong sect practicing Qidong meditation and tai chi. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. government has spent $410,625 to study the effects of teaching Chinese meditation to cocaine addicts.
“Our clinical experience and pilot studies suggest that Integrative Meditation (IM) from Chinese medicine may help clients engage in treatment, reduce cravings/withdrawal symptoms, and increase treatment retention, which appear missed by a typical behavior therapy,” says the official description of the project published by the National Institutes of Health.
“IM is an adaptation or simplified form of mindfulness meditation,” says the description. “It may enhance existing therapies to help reduce withdrawal symptoms, increase treatment engagement, and prevent relapse through step-by-step therapist facilitation.”
The study, which is titled “Treatment of Cocaine Addiction with Integrative Meditation,” received $225,000 in tax money in 2009 and $185,625 in 2010, for a total of $410,625. The project was scheduled to run from April 1, 2009 until March 31, 2011. The grant was issued by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the NIH.
“The specific aims,” of the study, according to the NIH description, “include: (1) To conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial of 66 outpatient cocaine users with 12 weekly facilitation meetings to assess feasibility of recruiting and retaining cocaine addicts, and to determine effect size of IM-augmented treatment in comparison with Non-directive therapy (NT) control, with both groups receiving standard treatment as usual (TAU), (2) To examine the changes in attention networks and negative mood as possible mediators of treatment outcomes between the two groups.”
CNSNews.com asked both the NIH and the principal investigator for the study--Dr. Kevin Chen of the University of Maryland-Baltimore--the following question: “According to the Census Bureau, the median household income in the United States is $52,000. How would you explain to the average American mom and dad--who make $52,000 per year--that taxing them to pay for this grant was justified?”

Neither Chen nor the NIH responded to this question. NIH spokeswoman Shirley Simpson requested the question in an e-mail. After more than a week, however, she still had not responded to the email. Chen also did not respond to a second, follow-up email with the same question.
When asked for more information on the meditation technique, however, Chen sent CNSNews.com a document describing the Chinese Integrative Meditation used in the study.
“Now, imagine you are sitting on a beach by the ocean,” says the description. “The ocean is creating peaceful waves to the rhythm of your breathing, and surrounding you with white energy--All the pores of your skin are open. When you breathe in, feel the white energy being absorbed into your body through the pores of your skin; when you breathe out, imagine the white energy going into your belly. Focus on the pores of your skin when you inhale, and the ball in your belly when you exhale. Breathe in--the white energy enters through the pores of your skin. Breathe out--the white energy rushes to your belly--(Let 30 seconds go in silence).”
“You become a large balloon, and start to float away,” says the description.
The closing of the meditation recommends a contemplation of saliva.
“Close your lips and chomp your teeth about 36 times (pause 5 seconds).  With your lips closed, slide your tongue over the front of your teeth on both your upper and lower jaws.  Your mouth will fill with saliva.  Slowly swallow it in several portions.  As you swallow, picture the saliva flowing down to your lower belly.  Lightly pat your head from front to back; and pat your body from your head to feet.  Take a deep breath in and sigh lightly on the exhale.

“Now you are feeling pure, clean, relaxed and very healthy…” the description states.