If you have ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol, you are probably all too familiar with drug cravings.
They can be brought on at a moment’s notice, but when they hit, they can be intense and overwhelming. While you are likely learning how to cope with drug cravings, you may still not quite understand what is causing them.
What Are Drug Cravings?
Drug cravings are an intense desire to use drugs that are linked to changes in the brain because of addiction. They are typically brought on from exposure to a drug trigger that can take many forms including situations, environment, and even emotions. Drug cravings are what keep people addicted to drugs and also why many people struggle to quit without the assistance of professionals.
Why Do I Crave Drugs?
Drug cravings are a result of the body becoming dependent on the substances you regularly abuse. With repeated use, the brain changes in a way that makes it adapt to regular access to these substances, including significant alterations to the brain’s reward system. Over time, the brain is conditioned to associate pleasurable feelings with the artificial high that drugs provide and takes less pleasure from natural highs like exercise. When you take these substances away, the brain struggles to function in the same way that it is used to; the result is an intense craving to get this substance back into the body’s system and feel these pleasurable effects once more.
Craving and urges in addiction recovery are common and drug cravings vary in strength and frequency. Someone who is going through a medical detox after several years of addiction will likely experience more frequent drug cravings than someone who only needed outpatient care. While they can both experience powerful cravings at one point or another, the person with the more severe addiction may experience these stronger drug cravings more often.
How Long Do Drug Cravings Last?
How long drug cravings last will vary considerably from person to person. Factors like the severity of the addiction, dosage formerly taken, frequency of abuse, stage of recovery, type of substance abused, drug triggers, and the mental state of the person in recovery can all play a role in how long a drug craving lasts as well as how severe it is.
Although addiction cravings tend to become less frequent as time passes, a person who was once an addict can experience drug cravings even several years after getting sober. How long these individual drug cravings last depends. While they can be overwhelming in the moment, they are fleeting.
How to Deal with Drug Cravings
Your natural instinct when dealing with drug cravings may be to give in, but this is why you became addicted in the first place. Now that you are sober, you need to learn how to cope with drug cravings in a healthy and productive manner that will help you avoid relapse. Below are some ways to deal with drug cravings in recovery.
- Remove yourself some the situation or environment that is triggering these cravings
- Practice the coping techniques you learned in your addiction therapy programs
- Talk to someone
- Try to distract yourself with a healthy activity
- Practice meditation or mindfulness
- Reflect on why you are experiencing these cravings