An anonymous reader writes in and asks: “How long before my cravings for drugs and alcohol go away?”
Good question. And it is certainly something that any newcomer would like to know. Unfortunately, the answer can be rather complicated. The reason for this is that there are 3 major variables that we are dealing with:
1) Which drug (or drugs) we are talking about – such as alcohol, cocaine, opiates, etc.
2) People are different – different body types, chemistry, length of time to detox their body fully, etc.
3) Psychological and subconscious triggers – that can trigger a craving years after the body is fully detoxed
Let’s take a closer look at each of these 3 situations.
Certain drugs might take longer to get over than others
Some drugs create physical dependence and take some time for the body to fully detox from them (such as opiates), whereas other drugs are flushed fairly quickly and do not produce this same level of dependence (such as Meth). However, this doesn’t mean that these “weaker” drugs won’t eventually produce cravings in a person….it just means that they won’t produce substantial physical withdrawal symptoms.
For example, someone who has been doing Cocaine for several years might have intense cravings that seem to last for a long time after they get clean and sober. In other words, our cravings might persist for longer if we used a drug for a period of years or decades before quitting, regardless of how quickly the actual chemicals get flushed out of our system.
Different people will have different amounts of craving
Some people get clean and sober and go through a few days of withdrawal and never really look back. They don’t have cravings really, just the occasional thought about using or taking a drink. Other people might get clean and sober and struggle for months with intense cravings that come almost every single day. It just really depends a lot on the person and their unique situation.
Something subtle can trigger you years later
Scientists have proven that you can be triggered to have a powerful drug craving without even knowing what caused the trigger. In other words, we can be subconsciously triggered into a craving…for example, by smelling someone’s perfume that we used to use drugs around. The bizarre thing is that we might smell the perfume and not even realize that it is causing the trigger. The challenging thing is that this can happen to us years after we have physically detoxed from the drugs and alcohol.
What can you do about cravings?
1) Talk about them – this is one of the most powerful remedies. Talk to another recovering addict about your craving. If you keep it in, or keep it a secret, the craving will only grow stronger until it drives you crazy or drives you to pick up and use. Don’t let that happen. Instead, talk to someone about it.
2) Fight them directly – by immediately involving yourself in recovery-related activity. Go to a meeting, call your sponsor, or whatever you can do to get distracted from the craving and focusing on something positive.
3) If you’re having a craving, tell us about it in the comments below. Sometimes that is enough to bring some relief.
What not to do – Don’t do something passive. Don’t just say “Oh, I’ll go home and sleep this craving off.” You need to take action and be more proactive about overcoming cravings. If it is a strong craving and you really want to use, then get motivated and pick up the phone and connect with someone who can help you. If you brush it off and choose to be passive, you’ll probably regret it later on.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help!