Drug Cravings, Withdrawals, and How to Handle Them

Treating drug addiction is much more complicated than simply ending drug use. Once an addict stops consuming drugs and recovers from their physical dependence on a substance, there are multiple steps they must take to achieve long-term sober. The addict must prepare to face challenges on this journey. Addiction changes the brain, and once this permanent change has occurred, recovering addicts must work on themselves and remain committed to their treatment plan of choice.

Drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms pose a great risk to sobriety. These intense feelings can be physically and mentally debilitating, and even the strongest people may fall victim to the temptation of relapse. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms are two of the most common obstacles for addicts. Individuals may feel that sobriety is impossible without the right mindset, coping mechanisms, and medication.

Drug cravings can be intense, but they don’t have to lead to relapse. In this blog, MAT Care Clinics define drug cravings, identify common withdrawal symptoms, and offer a solution for those struggling to stay sober as a result of these problems.

What are Drug Cravings?

A drug craving is an urge to use drugs. A craving typically occurs when an individual confronts a powerful cue or trigger, such as a bottle of prescription medication or a movie scene depicting drug use. When an addict sees a person, place, or thing that reminds them of substance abuse, a craving ignites in the part of the brain that stores the connected memory.

Cravings can haunt the mind of an addict for a very long time. After detoxification, the human brain goes into overdrive as it tries to function without the substances the user was previously physically dependent on.

Drug cravings can be extremely disorienting for a recovering addict. They can warp a person’s thoughts and lead them to believe they must consume drugs to make the feelings disappear. Because of this, cravings can lead to relapse and potentially ruin a person’s chances of long-term sobriety.

What are Drug Withdrawals?

A withdrawal is a mental and physical sensation when an individual quits using an addictive substance they have become physically dependent on. Addicts may feel an intense sickness upon ending their drug use, and the unpleasant feelings in the body and mind can become debilitating. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Every situation is different, but withdrawal can be very intense. The symptoms are extremely unpleasant, and unassisted withdrawal from substances such as alcohol and benzodiazepines can even lead to death. Because of this, drug and alcohol users typically go through their withdrawal under a doctor’s care, which is called detoxification, commonly known as detox.

During detox, doctors can alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal using various medications. Individuals suffering from opioid withdrawal may be able to reduce their insomnia using hypnotics, a class of drugs that helps users get restful sleep. Other medications include:

  • Clonidine – for restlessness/stress
  • Anxiolytic – for anxiety
  • Analgesic – for overall body pain

Detox allows the body to end its dependence on drugs but won’t always end the cravings. For some, drug cravings can last for years after detoxification. Thankfully, there are healthy options for reducing the potency of cravings.

Identify Your Triggers

Managing drug cravings starts with identifying triggers. Triggers come in many forms, but avoiding the people, places, and things that conjure up old memories and feelings is generally important. For starters, avoid people who abuse substances or frequently discuss drug use. For a recovering addict, it will be virtually impossible to spend long periods with a social group that prioritizes drug or alcohol use.

Avoid media that is closely related to drug use. It may feel frustrating to give up your favorite TV show or avoid the latest blockbuster, but even a picture of a prescription medicine bottle can, at times, be enough to induce a drug craving. A craving can quickly become a relapse; if sobriety is the priority, individuals must be willing to eliminate anything reminding them of drug or alcohol use.

Control Your Urges

At times, cravings can arise from the mind. Frequently ruminating on past drug use can cause an individual to yearn for the substances that previously ruined their life. Meditation and positive self-talk can do wonders for an addict trying to stay sober. A popular mindfulness technique used for cravings is urge surfing.

Urge surfing involves acknowledging a craving for what it is and allowing the body and mind to feel the feeling. To successfully surf the urge, stop what you are doing and acknowledge the craving when you feel it developing. Instead of obsessing over what triggered you or trying to resist the feeling, accept that it is happening and center yourself. Sit still, close your eyes, and listen to your thoughts. Acknowledge any bodily sensations, and describe what you are currently going through by speaking out loud or writing in a journal.

Urge surfing may be difficult initially, but over time, addicts will realize that cravings are temporary feelings and will eventually pass without using drugs. Because cravings can be a long-term issue for a recovering addict, it is important to know how to navigate these feelings when they arise.

Reach Out 

Reaching out to a trusted individual in your support system may help you navigate your craving and resist the urge to relapse. Having a friend or family member willing to listen to you discuss your craving may help you process your current feelings and work through the craving without relapsing.

If you don’t have anyone to talk to, some resources can help you work through your feelings and healthily deal with your cravings. Hiring a therapist can do wonders for mental health, and many counselors and psychotherapists are available at short notice. In addition to therapy, certain drug treatment centers and sober living facilities allow individuals to stop by for emergency appointments.

Why Medication-Assisted Treatment is a Viable Option

Severe and long-lasting drug cravings can seem overwhelming without medication. The medication-assisted treatment provides recovering addicts a way to increase their chances of long-term sobriety by reducing drug cravings.

Treatment centers can provide individuals with medications to reduce cravings while also blocking the intoxicating effects of an opioid. Through oral use or injection, these medications provide long-term relief from drug cravings without causing a “high” or sense of euphoria. When used as prescribed, medications such as naltrexone are oral tablets that will bind opioid receptors and greatly reduce drug cravings. Those unwilling or unable to consume tablets may opt for Sublocade or Vivitrol. These medications are given via injection and must only be taken monthly instead of daily.

MAT Care Clinics | Nashua NH Drug Addiction Treatment

Drug cravings can lead to bad decisions if left untreated. By identifying triggers, developing coping mechanisms to handle cravings, and investing in medication-assisted treatments, individuals can live healthy life free from drug or alcohol use. Cravings may be powerful, but as long as you have the right support system, you won’t have to relinquish the desire to stray from a straight path.

MAT Care Clinics provides clients with elite care to help them stay sober for the long haul. Featuring a variety of FDA-approved substances, our medical team provides individuals with personalized care that will help them find the right solution for their unique needs. Our medications reduce cravings and block the euphoric sensations of drug and alcohol use. For more information on our services, contact us today at 833-398-1234 to schedule a free consultation.

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