5 Strategies To Deal With Drug Cravings - California Behavioral Health
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5 Strategies To Deal With Drug Cravings

Understanding how to deal with drug cravings is cravings is crucial for relapse prevention and ongoing recovery. Drug cravings can happen at any point during treatment and recovery. Even those who have been sober for years can experience cravings. It is best to understand how to deal with drug cravings before they occur.

When dealing with cravings, it is crucial to accept that you have them. You might be tempted to deny their existence or push the thoughts down. Accept that you are in recovery and that you will have cravings from time to time. But now you know that you don’t need to give in to your cravings and can let them pass.

Self-Soothing Activities to Deal with Drug Cravings

Self-soothing is an essential part of the recovery process. You might not have learned how to self-soothe or make yourself feel better without drugs. When you feel stressed, you might feel a craving to use drugs to self-medicate these negative feelings.

Self-soothing activities can help you when you have a drug craving. Be kind and gentle with yourself as you try some of the following:

  • Give yourself a massage on your arms, neck, feet, or legs
  • Sit or lie down and pull your legs to your chest to hug yourself
  • Take a warm bath or a long shower to relax

Breathwork and Mindfulness When Craving Drugs

Mindfulness activities are helpful to deal with drug cravings and other stressors. You can do a mindfulness activity nearly anywhere at any time. Often, these activities are centered on breathwork or experiencing sensations.

When you have drug cravings, try some of the following to shift your focus:

  • Breath in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for four, hold again, and repeat four times.
  • Make a mental list of five things in your immediate surroundings that activate each of the five senses. 

The goal of mindfulness is to be aware of yourself and the present moment. When you have drug cravings, your mind might drift off and become clouded with overwhelming thoughts. Mindfulness activities can bring you back to the present.

Exercise and Physical Activities Can Help Handle Drug Cravings

Sometimes, getting up and moving can help you with drug cravings. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora D. Volkow, MD, “As [physical activity] invigorates the heart and lungs, it stimulates the brain’s reward pathway and heightens mood-boosting neurochemicals” like endorphins and other “feel-good chemicals.

Exercise doesn’t need to be complex or involve an intense workout. Just five to ten minutes can be helpful when you have cravings. You can try:

  • Doing stretches, like touching your toes or lacing your fingers together to stretch your arms out overhead or in front of you
  • Walking or running in place
  • Jump up and down ten times
  • Pushups, squats, situps, and other bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere
  • Take a walk around the block or in a park

You can do some of these activities no matter where you are. If you can, get outside and spend time in nature. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Studies have shown that being in nature can restore and strengthen our mental capacities, increasing focus and attention.”

Ways to Distract Yourself From Drug Cravings

You can also use distractions to help with drug cravings. You might need to give yourself a few minutes to engage in another activity, like:

  • Watching videos or TV shows
  • Doing a puzzle or playing a game
  • Adult coloring books
  • Listening to music
  • Call a supportive friend or loved one just to chat

By finding a distraction, you can take your mind off of drug cravings and other stressors.

Eating Healthy and Drug Cravings

Healthy foods can help you feel better when you are stressed and have drug cravings. Eating nutritious foods can help you succeed throughout your recovery. You can even cook something for yourself and learn a new skill to distract yourself from cravings.

Poor nutrition can open the door to relapse and giving in to your drug cravings. According to MedlinePlus, “A person with substance use [disorder] is more likely to relapse when they have poor eating habits.” Even more surprising is that “[d]rug and alcohol addiction causes a person to forget what it is like to be hungry, and instead think of this feeling as a drug craving.” In other words, when you have a drug craving, you might just need a snack!

Keep healthy snacks, like dried fruits and nuts, with you at work, home, and even in your car to help deal with drug cravings driven by hunger.

Combining Strategies to Deal With Drug Cravings

In addition, you can combine many of these activities to help yourself through drug cravings. For example, you can practice mindful eating by noticing all of the sensations involved as you cook and eat a meal. You can also distract yourself with exercise by taking an aimless stroll around a park.

Dealing With Drug Cravings in Palm Springs

Drug cravings can occur at any point in the recovery process. If you relapse due to drug cravings, you might need additional support to get back on track. California Behavioral Health offers empowering treatment options for you or a loved one to reclaim the life you were meant to live.


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