It might be a struggle at first, especially for those who’ve built up alcohol dependence or developed alcohol use disorder (AUD). However, the more you use these coping skills, the easier it will likely get.
Understanding Alcohol Cravings
An alcohol craving is a compulsion that’s very hard to resist.
Drinking alcohol is known to release endorphins in the brain, which relieve stress or pain. Someone with cravings for alcohol may think of nothing else and actually experience stress or anxiety if they try to resist it.
For those who struggle with alcohol abuse issues, drinking is also likely connected to their reward system in the brain. It’s associated with positive experiences, people, or places where drinking occurred. These associations can eventually become a trigger.
When triggered, someone might remember feelings of excitement or anticipation when they used to drink with a specific person or at a specific place. They also might experience physical changes like an increased heart rate or blood pressure.
Emotions can also be triggers. If you always drank when you were sad, that feeling may trigger a craving. Internal triggers like this can be the hardest to deal with.
How You Can Manage Alcohol Cravings
How do you manage cravings when they take over? It can be difficult but there are some strategies you can practice to ensure you stay on your road to recovery.
Keep Track Of Cravings
Keeping track of your cravings can help you identify what your triggers are. If you don’t know what will trigger a craving, it’s hard to stay away from it.
Keeping track can also make you aware that your cravings for alcohol are not always there. They come and go.
You can also begin to understand what you’re feeling when a craving comes on. If you’re always anxious during or before a craving, you can find ways to manage those feelings and stop the craving in its tracks.
Avoiding triggers is an important strategy to maintain an alcohol-free life. If you used to drink with a specific person or at a specific place, it may be best to stay away from those reminders that put you at high risk for relapse.
Plan something else to do with people you know won’t drink. Or find another activity to take your mind off of drinking. Avoiding triggers can also mean dealing with emotions that trigger you to drink any amount of alcohol.
Cravings don’t last forever so sometimes finding a distraction can help you overcome the urge to drink. Cravings are thought to last between 10-15 minutes and may go away quicker if you’re not paying attention to them.
Talk to a friend or family member, read, work out, or whatever will pull your concentration away from the craving.
Mindfulness & Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can be two very effective coping strategies to use when a craving comes on.
Instead of resisting the craving, you look at it and sit with it. What does the craving feel like? Where in your body do you feel it? Look at it without judgment. Where does it go? Does it change? Eventually, it will leave.
The more you get in the habit of examining your thoughts and feelings, the easier it will be to deal with intense cravings.
There are also a few medications that are approved to reduce alcohol cravings or block the effects of alcohol. Some of the most common medications include:
Detox & Rehabilitation
While at a treatment facility, you can:
- safely manage any alcohol withdrawal symptoms that occur
- learn strategies for relapse prevention
- get help for mental health issues
- dig deeper into why you drink and what your triggers are
Most rehab programs also use cognitive behavioral therapy to help their patients challenge and change their thoughts towards drinking and other aspects of their lives.
If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, call our helpline today to find the right addiction treatment program for you.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Craving Research: Implications for Treatment
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Handling urges to drink
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts
National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus - Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
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