Get Help Now 760-492-6385

Intrusive cravings are a symptom of substance use disorder (SUD). Treatment programs help clients learn to identify craving triggers and manage intrusive thoughts. According to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, “Many studies indicate that craving is a common feature of addictive disorders.” West Coast Recovery Centers uses evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to help clients control cravings. 

Do Relapse Prevention Strategies Help People Control Cravings?

Cravings are caused by physical and emotional side effects of addictive behaviors, including chronic substance abuse. As stated in Addiction Relapse Prevention by authors Guenzel and McChargue, clinicians “need to emphasize that occasional thoughts of using or cravings are a common part of recovery so they can help the patient equip themselves with the skills needed to work through these challenges.” Relapse is not inevitable. However, intrusive thoughts of misusing substances and physical cravings are experienced by everyone diagnosed with SUD. Finding healthy ways to manage side effects reduces the risk of relapse. 

Individuals in treatment control cravings and other symptoms of SUD by doing the following: 

  • Reducing stress through self-care 
  • Actively participating in individual and group therapy
  • Creating relapse prevention and crisis management strategies
  • Using healthy distractions to redirect thoughts and behaviors

Controlling cravings is easier when people know the triggers. A large part of therapy during early recovery involves discussing underlying issues and identifying potential triggers for cravings or other symptoms of SUD. Individuals in treatment are guided through developing relapse prevention strategies and healthy coping skills to reduce the adverse effects of cravings. 

3 Ways to Address Cravings and Other Symptoms of SUD

The symptoms of SUD exist along a spectrum, and no two people react to addiction and recovery in the same way. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, “[T]he main tools of relapse prevention are cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation, which change negative thinking and develop healthy coping skills.” Therapy gives people the knowledge and skills they need to manage their condition successfully. 

Below are three ways to address cravings and other intrusive symptoms of SUD:

#1. Control Cravings Using Mindfulness

Mindfulness-based techniques are excellent for controlling cravings and any accompanying side effects. For example, a person experiencing a craving may use mindfulness exercises to ground themselves in the present moment and avoid intrusive thoughts that would increase the craving intensity. Mindfulness is also an essential part of exposure therapy. According to the Substance Use and Addiction Journal, “Repeated exposure to triggering stimuli during which participants practice nonreactivity may, over time, result in habituation, thereby decreasing the intensity of the initial craving reaction.” People can take steps to control their cravings using mindfulness, exposure to triggers, and other therapeutic tools. 

#2. Creating Healthy Routines and Habits

People in recovery benefit from replacing habits and routines related to substance misuse. According to Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, “Research has found that individuals who are in recovery have up to 16 to 18 hours of new, unoccupied free time as they no longer require time spent for obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of substances. A common obstacle during early recovery is finding new meaningful activities in which to fill these new hours.” Creating routines reduces cravings by giving people something else to focus on. 

A few examples of healthy routines and habits include: 

  • Going to sleep at the same time every night
  • Spending time outside each week
  • Practicing mindfulness techniques or meditation 
  • Staying physically active 
  • Eating regular nutritious meals 
  • Journaling or creating art
  • Engaging in hobbies
  • Participating in healthy social activities

Clients work with their care team to determine what areas of their lives would benefit from more structure and consistency. Creating routines to fill those spaces of time helps people feel more emotionally stable and confident. 

#3. Engaging in Positive Social Interactions

Social support is essential during treatment. Many people in early recovery have a limited support system, and finding healthy ways to build social connections reduces the risk of relapse. Friends, family, peers, and care team members support and encourage people in recovery. Often, cravings feel overwhelming, and having social connections to reach out to during difficult moments makes it easier for people to control their cravings.

People in recovery engage in positive social interactions by doing the following: 

  • Attending support group meetings 
  • Spending time with loved ones
  • Joining sober clubs, groups, or organizations 
  • Volunteering in the local community

Positive social interactions provide a distraction and valuable support for individuals recovering from substance abuse. Healthy distractions assist people in avoiding or managing cravings and intrusive thoughts. 

How Does West Coast Recovery Centers Help Clients Control Cravings?

West Coast Recovery Centers helps clients manage cravings through the following:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Peer support
  • Family therapy
  • Prescription medications
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Alternative holistic therapies

Clients often benefit from integrative care and combining multiple therapeutic modalities. Care plans are tailored to each client’s unique needs to ensure the clinical team addresses any triggers or underlying issues impacting symptoms of SUD. 

People recovering from substance abuse experience cravings. The type of substance and how long it was abused impacts the severity of cravings and triggers. Finding healthy ways to manage cravings and other symptoms of SUD reduces the risk of relapse and facilitates healing. Social support, self-care, and healthy routines help people avoid triggers and reduce the effects of cravings or intrusive thoughts related to substance abuse. West Coast Recovery Centers uses evidence-based and alternative holistic therapies to help clients manage cravings and prepare for continuing care. Skill development and other services make it easier for clients to learn coping methods. To find out more about our programs and services, call our office today at (760) 492-6509.