Phenomenon of Craving
Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the Sensation of Craving
What do we know about the phenomenon of craving? This saying goes back decades and is included in a passage from the Alcoholics Anonymous book.
How can this passage about the phenomenon of craving and Alcoholics Anonymous be useful today, even for clients that don’t necessarily practice the 12 steps?
Keep reading to learn more about managing cravings, and how treatment at Icarus Behavioral Health in New Mexico can help you plan and overcome relapse triggers of all kinds!
The Phenomenon of Craving Beginning with Alcohol Consumption
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous includes a chapter titled “The Doctor’s Opinion” that discusses the physiological aspects of addiction and craving in great depth. Not even heavy drinkers experience cravings like this. The author of the Doctor’s Opinion, Dr. William D. Silkworth, agrees that an addict develops a physical allergy after using an addictive substance.
The manifestation of this allergy is a need to ingest ever greater quantities of the allergen. The most basic way of saying this is that the addict has no choice but to continue using, or drinking, or even eating (as with the case of an eating disorder and a substance use disorder) to relieve the mental obsession – the list goes on and on, but they are all one and the same.
Some may even consider them an abnormal desire or spiritual malady but this isn’t the case since it stems from the science of human nature. The spiritual malady outlook is more based on the 12-Step model, in which Alcoholics Anonymous states that addiction is not a disease but a moral dilemma. This model, while still offering helpful observations, is considered outdated.
Using this model, relapse prevention is obtained through prayer and giving in to a higher power. This would eliminate the human science and triggers and cravings aspect, which seems to offer a better explanation and solution to relapse prevention.
Learning About the Phenomenon of Craving and Alcohol Abuse
What have we learned in general about cravings throughout history? Initially, all we had to build from was alcoholism. However, as time has progressed, the complexity of cravings urges, and addiction has grown exponentially, giving us more insight into these occurrences – but also leaving plenty to the imagination!
People, in general, did not comprehend why these individuals kept engaging in substance addiction for extended periods despite the inevitable negative outcomes. In a nutshell, alcohol abuse does more than only make people act counter to their own rationality and self-interest.
Alcohol Consumption as a Disease
Although alcoholism is still a serious issue, it is only one of several addictive substances available to people today. Alcoholism and drug addiction, however, are two sides of the same disease that has already reached epidemic proportions. Approximately 10% of the U.S. population, or about 25 million Americans over the age of 12, suffers from chemical dependency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and a variety of other sources. The sheer magnitude of this problem is illustrated by these numbers.
Addiction is a disease, and there are many ways to help those who suffer from it find sobriety and independence again, as well as reduce relapse for an extended period. Addiction recovery is a difficult process, however. Addiction is a personal disease; therefore, not all addicts have the same treatment needs.
However, there are some aspects of addiction that tend to be universal, and understanding them is crucial for preparing clients for success once they leave treatment and return home. In particular, the cravings that almost all addicts experience and which can make it exceedingly difficult to attain sustained abstinence are some of the most worrying and complex components of addiction.
Exactly What Is the Phenomenon of Craving??
As a general rule, most people who develop an addiction struggle with it for a considerable amount of time. There are a number of factors at play here but considering an addict’s perspective can help clarify why this is the case. Addicts strive to hide their substance misuse from everyone, including their friends and family, who they fear will want to intervene due to their negative perceptions of their chemical dependency.
Substance misuse becomes a part of the person’s identity since the addict spends so much time misusing it over such long periods of time. Substance misuse becomes a part of a person’s psyche in the same way that interests and positive routines do. Because of this, recovery from addiction is often unsuccessful. If they didn’t, they’d stop drinking and doing drugs the moment they felt the negative effects.
Triggers and Cues
Addicts will likely encounter triggers related to their substance usage throughout the therapy process and into long-term recovery. This is due to the fact that many alcoholics and drug addicts develop strong associations between themselves and the people, places, things, experiences, circumstances, and so on that they met while under the influence of these substances.
These triggers, or “cues,” remind them of something, and the euphoria and intoxication associated with those memories stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers. In a nutshell, people experience cravings or urges to use their drug of choice whenever they think about their past substance addiction. These cravings might range from “I’d want to use again” to “I need to use right now,” the latter of which is often the harbinger of relapse.
How Do Addicts Interact With Cravings?
It’s being used to satisfy the addict’s physical need for the drug. This will keep happening until they either get too ill to continue or use all of the substances available. The addict can no longer drink/use responsibly or enjoy it. Any alcoholic can benefit from trying moderate drinking with the help of a bartender. Because both the allergy and the phenomena of craving have been set off, this is impossible (phenomena is defined as an unexplained happening).
The addict, once they’ve used, is likely to go on a binge that culminates in a resolute decision to stop using. In this scenario, the addict is making an effort to overcome their addiction by strengthening their willpower. The psychiatrist warns that unless the addict undergoes a complete psychological transformation, he or she will continue to engage in destructive patterns of binge drug use. The addict is no longer utilizing it as a means of egress. They can’t help but give in to their urge, so they use them to calm themselves down.
Three Types of Triggers or Cravings
Reasons for cravings are triggered by specific stimuli. Although an addict may have dozens or even hundreds of cues, only a subset of these can elicit intense cravings; these are known as triggers. Environment, exposure, and stress are the three basic categories of triggers. As the name implies, environmental triggers are external and situational factors, such as the settings, people, and things that bring on intense desires.
These could be places like a regular hangout with friends to use drugs or alcohol or people who you regularly use these substances with. When people in recovery are placed in a situation where they are forced to come into close physical proximity with substances of abuse again, this is known as a re-exposure trigger.
Addicts in recovery face what is known as “stress triggers” whenever they return to their communities following treatment. Specifically, it’s the strain of readjusting to a life in which one is responsible for maintaining their own sobriety and abstinence and not resorting to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with difficulties.
What Happens Mentally During Triggers and Cravings?
For those who are actively abusing substances, cravings are a symptom of a deeper problem that may be linked back to the process of habituation. The term “habituation” describes the dulling of feelings or perceptions after prolonged or heightened exposure. Developing a tolerance to alcohol or drugs through repeated use is a process that shares many similarities with habituation.
Addiction to alcohol or drugs triggers a cascade of neurochemicals that lead to elevated mood and increased motivation. But as substance abuse continues, the first rush of pleasure and euphoria fades and is replaced by something less intense. Addicts experience cravings because they yearn for the same intense feelings they had when they initially started using substances.
How to Manage Your Cravings
Take it as it comes
The first step in dealing with hunger is realizing that it is human nature to feel this way. Even those with long and successful histories of sobriety still struggle with cravings on occasion. If you’re having a craving, it’s not because you’re doing something wrong, because you’ve already failed, or because you’re going to fail.
As a matter of fact, they are a common occurrence. It’s normal to feel tempted to use again if you’ve been abusing an addictive substance regularly, perhaps for years. However, resisting or ignoring the impulse will just make it more intense. Don’t beat yourself up for having a craving; just acknowledge that you are and move on.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that cravings don’t endure forever. Not paying attention to them will usually cause them to die within 10–15 minutes. Find a strategy to divert your attention away from your urge instead of giving in to it. It might be anything from working to reading to playing a video game to going for a walk to chatting with friends.
You can’t have two thoughts in your head at once, and you can’t stop thinking about something if you have nothing else to think about. Your best bet is to divert your focus elsewhere. At Icarus Behavioral Health, this diversion and refocusing are central reasons why recreational therapy and art therapy for addiction are so popular among our clients!
There’s probably something feeding the appetite if it doesn’t go away fast. It could be being in an environment where alcohol is readily available, seeing an old drinking buddy, or simply being in the presence of an emotionally draining person. It’s usually best to just get out of there when things become bad like this. You should probably just leave the supermarket if you’re having trouble getting past the alcohol section.
When faced with a wailing toddler, parents often abandon their shopping carts, so it stands to reason that they would do the same thing when faced with a craving. Understanding your triggers is important for two reasons: avoiding them and recognizing them when they do make an appearance. If you can’t figure out what’s triggering your craving, moving somewhere new can be the answer.
When it comes to overcoming food cravings, working out might be extra helpful. As was already noted, it serves as a great diversion, particularly when engaging in activities that call for a high level of ability or when interacting with others, such as team sports. Second, physical activity has been shown to alleviate stress and lift the mood. More significantly, it helps you control your emotions and builds resolve.
When a craving occurs for a drink or drugs arrives, all these advantages come in useful. A simple stroll around the block may be all that’s needed to break the habit. You won’t even remember it once 20 minutes have passed.
Find a Solution to Cravings at Icarus Behavioral Health
We at Icarus Behavioral Health warn our patients about the dangers of giving in to cravings and impulses. Our clients, with the help of our drug abuse counselors and group sessions, develop a deep awareness of the presence of these compulsions, enabling them to avoid them as they progress through recovery.
All calls to our facilities are completely confidential and never will affect insurance coverage or premiums. So give yourself a break from craving drinking or drugs and get in touch with a member of our Admissions staff right away to learn more about the services we offer!