Cravings: What Causes Them and How You Can Resist Them

Understanding cravings and knowing how to deal with them effectively can help you avoid relapse and maintain long-term sobriety.

If you’ve ever struggled with drug or alcohol cravings, you’re not alone. Cravings are a normal part of life, but they can be especially strong when you’re trying to quit drinking or using drugs. Luckily, understanding cravings and knowing what causes them can help you resist them.

What Are Cravings?

Drug cravings are intense desires which trigger you to use drugs or alcohol you were previously addicted to. Even though you can experience cravings at any time, you’re more likely to have cravings when you’re in an environment where you used to use or purchase drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, they can be so strong that it’s difficult to focus on or think about anything else except the urge to use drugs or alcohol. Drug cravings can also make you feel you won’t get better until you consume your preferred substance, but this isn’t true. Understanding cravings and knowing how to deal with them effectively can help you avoid relapse and maintain long-term sobriety.

Drug and alcohol cravings are intense desires to use substances despite negative consequences. These cravings can be physical, mental, or emotional in nature, and they can be triggered by a variety of environmental cues, including the sight or smell of the substance, social situations, or even certain thoughts or emotions. While cravings are a common feature of addiction, they are not inevitable, and there are several strategies that people can use to manage them. For instance, keeping busy and engaged in positive activities can help to distract from cravings, while deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can help to reduce physical symptoms. Ultimately, dealing with cravings is an individualized process, and what works for one person may not work for another. However, with patience and practice, it is possible to learn how to manage them effectively.

What Causes Cravings?

Drug and alcohol cravings can be caused by a variety of factors. For some people, cravings may be triggered by environmental cues, such as seeing an advertisement for alcohol or being in a place where drugs are used. For others, cravings may be linked to certain activities or behaviors, such as watching a movie that depicts drug use. Still, others may crave drugs or alcohol in response to emotional states, such as boredom, loneliness, or stress. Ultimately, cravings result from complex interactions between the brain and the body. When someone is exposed to a cue that triggers a craving, the brain releases chemicals that cause physical changes, such as increased heart rate and pupil dilation. These changes can lead to an intense urge to use drugs or alcohol. While cravings are a natural phenomenon, they can be very difficult to resist. Fortunately, there are many techniques that can help people manage their cravings and abstain from drug or alcohol use.

What Makes Cravings So Hard To Resist?

There are several theories about why cravings are so difficult to deal with. One theory is that drug and alcohol use alters the brain’s reward system, making it more difficult to feel pleasure from other activities. This can lead to a cycle of using substances in order to achieve the same level of pleasure, even though it is increasingly difficult to achieve. Additionally, some research suggests that cravings may be linked to certain memories or associations that have been formed during active addiction. These memories can be triggered by certain sights, smells, or emotions, which can then lead to a strong urge to use drugs or alcohol.

Tips To Deal With and Resist Cravings

Resisting cravings can be difficult, but it is possible with practice and the right mindset. A craving is often the result of an emotional trigger, such as stress, boredom, or fatigue. The key to resisting a craving is to identify the trigger and find a healthy way to cope with it.

Some of the most common ways to cope with drug and alcohol cravings include:

  • Distracting yourself. Most cravings don’t last more than 10 to 15 minutes, so one of the most effective ways to deal with cravings is to keep yourself busy. Instead of succumbing to the craving you could read a book, go for a walk, play a video game, call a friend, listen to music, or watch a funny video to distract yourself from the urge to use. Since the brain can only think about one thing at a time, engaging in these kinds of activities allows you to refocus your attention on something else as the urge to use passes.
  • Examining your thinking. You may not realize it, but your own thinking can unintentionally increase the intensity of cravings. For example, saying things like “this craving is so intense I can barely resist it,” makes you feel powerless against the temptation. But cravings are temporary urges you can in fact resist. Phrases like “this urge will pass and I have the power to resist temptations,” can help remind you that you have the power to say “no” to urges to use drugs and alcohol.
  • Exercising. Physical fitness can help you resist cravings in two ways. First, exercising can be a healthy distraction. Second, exercise helps reduce anxiety and improves mood, which can help decrease the urge to use drugs or alcohol. In fact, after a 20-minute walk, most people forget about their craving entirely.
  • Practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. When you experience a craving, it can be tempting to try to push it away or label it as “bad.” However, doing this only creates more suffering. Learning to observe your cravings mindfully can help them dissipate on their own. To do this, pay attention to the physical sensations that you’re experiencing when you have a craving. Notice the thoughts and emotions that come up, but don’t get caught up in them. See if you can simply observe the craving without reacting to it. With time and practice, you’ll find that cravings become less intense and less frequent.
  • Playing the tape. Even though cravings can strike without warning, “playing the tape” can be an effective way to resist them. This technique involves mentally rehearsing what will happen if you give in to the craving and relapse. By picturing the negative consequences of using drugs or alcohol, you can help to talk yourself out of giving in to the temptation.

Dealing with cravings can be difficult, but avoiding triggers, such as places or people associated with drug use, is one way to reduce the risk of cravings. Additionally, creating a supportive network of family and friends who provide encouragement and understanding may also be helpful. Finally, taking part in activities that promote self-care and relaxation, such as yoga or meditation, can help to reduce stress levels and minimize the likelihood of experiencing cravings.

Say Goodbye To Cravings For Good

If you’re struggling with drug or alcohol cravings, don’t give up. Understanding what causes cravings and knowing how to cope with them can make all the difference in your recovery journey. If you’re ready to take the next step in your recovery, we’d be happy to help you get started on the path to long-term sobriety.
Contact us today for more information about our addiction treatment program and how we can help you achieve your recovery goals.

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