Addiction is not a mental or behavioral disorder but a chronic medical disease. Like hypertension or diabetes, drug and alcohol addiction must be continuously treated with lifestyle changes, medication, and counseling to help manage stress and cravings.
What makes nearly all recovering addicts vulnerable to at least one instance of relapse? Research indicates that cravings may occur even after a year of sobriety because of changes to the way the brain functions. The recovering brain needs time to adjust to living without addictive substances that made it “feel” good. Basically, the brain can’t forget about being high or drunk. Consequently, people in recovery almost always deal with strong cravings that threaten their sobriety.
Triggers and Cravings
Produced by psychological or environmental cues that provoke a habitual response from recovering addicts, common triggers that cause cravings include:
- Neighborhoods, streets, and bars where someone used to find drugs, get high, and associate with other addicts
- Exposure to needles, pipes, rolling papers, and other drug paraphernalia that the person once used to get high
- Hanging out with people who use drugs
- Watching someone smoke, snort, or inject drugs
- Experiencing stressful situations (death in the family, divorce, loss of employment)
Just watching a television show depicting addicts using drugs can trigger cravings in some recovering addicts. Knowing how to recognize the onset of cravings and immediately start doing one or more relapse prevention techniques is the best way to avoid relapse and stay sober.
Managing Cravings: 5 Ways to Stop Relapse
Talk to an Addiction Crisis Counselor
Hickory Treatment Centers provides comprehensive aftercare for recovering addicts that includes 24/7 access to counselors who can help cope with cravings. Just talking with an understanding counselor about your craving for drugs or alcohol can alleviate anxiety and racing thoughts about relapsing.
Remember Coping Techniques Learned in Rehab
Substance abusers in treatment programs will learn calming strategies to deal with stressful events. Practicing deep breathing, mindfulness, visualization, and meditative techniques before cravings get overwhelming are effective methods for preventing relapse.
A strategy for managing drug or alcohol cravings, urge surfing incorporates mindfulness to help a person “ride out” the urge and accompanying anxiety. For some people, trying to suppress cravings is more difficult than just accepting the urge to relapse and managing cravings until the urge fades.
Think About the Consequences
Focus on the negative impact that giving in to cravings would have on your life. Write down a list of these consequences and keep the list accessible at all times. Examples of consequences could include: “If I use heroin again, I could lose my job and family”, or “If I start drinking again, my spouse will leave me”.
Take Medication to Reduce Cravings
Several FDA-approved medications are available for individuals recovering from an opioid or alcohol addiction. Naltrexone and acamprosate can help reduce cravings for alcohol while buprenorphine is prescribed to ex-opioid users in recovery.
For more information about coping with cravings or how you or someone you know can start the journey towards sobriety, please contact Hickory Treatment Centers today.