Most people who try to quit a drug addiction find that they experience triggers and cravings for the drug, especially during the first few days and weeks after quitting. Cravings are psychological urges to use the drugs, while triggers are situations such as places and objects that remind a person of their urge to use the drug. While cravings for a drug do tend to subside over time, cravings can still occur long after the last time a person used the drug.
Cravings During Physical Withdrawal
Drug cravings tend to be most strong right after a person has stopped using a substance because the person’s body is so accustomed to the drug that it is a struggle for the body to attain equilibrium without ingestion of the drug. This is especially true for some substances, such as benzodiazepines and opiates. It is a good idea for anyone who has been using a physically addictive substance for a long period of time to seek medical advice before quitting, because withdrawal from some drugs can be dangerous. There are medications available to ease the symptoms of withdrawal that can greatly reduce a person’s discomfort during the detox process, which usually lasts for several days or longer.
For many people, entering rehab is the best way to stop using drugs initially. Rehab can help a person quit by providing a person with psychological tools during the first few days or weeks of sobriety that a person will utilize during the rest of their recovery. Rehab can help an addict avoid triggers that cause the person to want to use their drug of choice by removing the addict from the people, places and things that remind that person of using.
Some people may not be able to enter rehab for drug treatment due to financial reasons or time constraints or other reasons. It is still a good idea for anyone in this situation to consult a doctor and other professionals such as an addiction counselor for help quitting their addiction.
Facing Triggers and Cravings After Rehab
After a recovering addict leaves a rehab program, they will usually face triggers to start using drugs again, especially if they return to the environment that they left when entering detox or rehab. Over 50 percent of addicts who enter rehab will eventually relapse. To reduce the risk of relapse, it is important to develop a network of supportive individuals. Going to a meeting as soon as possible after leaving rehab or detox should be considered an important priority.
A sober living house can help reduce some of the triggers an addict will face, because the person in recovery will be surrounded with like-minded individuals who are also committed to sobriety. At most sober living facilities, the recovering addict pays rent and does chores in exchange for the opportunity to live at the facility. Most sober living facilities are similar to dormitories or apartments, with shared rooms and common areas.
Having a Plan When Cravings Strike
Experiencing triggers and cravings during the recovery process is something that almost every addict faces during their recovery. It is important for a recovering addict to have a plan for how to tackle these urges when they strike. Here are some alternative activities for anyone who is struggling with cravings while trying to stay sober:
- Go for a walk.
- Call your sponsor.
- Make a list of reasons why you decided to quit and read them when you feel the urge to use drugs or alcohol.
- Call a friend or loved one.
- Listen to relaxing music.
- Leave an area where there might be access to drugs or alcohol, if there is temptation nearby.
It is important to keep in mind that cravings do fade with time, and with practice dealing with them, resisting the urge to go back to using drugs will get easier. It is also important to pay attention to living a healthy lifestyle. Many people find that they replace one unhealthy habit with another, such as smoking or eating more unhealthy snacks after they have given up drugs. It is better to try to replace a drug habit with healthy habits like exercise or socializing with loved ones in order to deal with stress.
It is a good idea to prevent cravings before they start by avoiding triggering situations. In Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, recovering addicts are advised to avoid the “people, places and things” that they were around when they were sick. Many addicts find that they feel the urge to use again when they are around the people that they were around when they were using drugs. While it may not be easy to find a new circle of friends, being around people who are committed to recovery is an essential part of staying sober.
Almost every addict will experience triggers and cravings at some point during their recovery. It is possible to minimize triggering situations with careful planning. Having a plan is also important when a craving strikes, to provide a distraction while the craving passes. A good support network is a really important tool for an addict in recovery. With dedication and patience, dealing with cravings does get easier over time.