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What are Drug and Alcohol Cravings and How Can a Rehab Center Help?

Recovering from drug and alcohol addiction isn’t always an easy or straightforward process. The road to sobriety and life in recovery can be full of twists and turns–and some surprises. Many people are taken aback by the intensity of their drug and alcohol cravings long after they complete rehab. 

But what are cravings? And how can you manage cravings in recovery so that you can stay committed to your new, sober lifestyle?

This guide will give you tips on managing your drug and alcohol cravings. You’ll also learn how the support of a rehab center can help you get sober and stay sober for life. If you need help managing cravings in recovery, reach out to the caring staff at the Mandala Healing Center for information, treatment, and support.

What are Cravings?

Drug and alcohol cravings are an intense want or compulsion to use these substances. A craving can lead to urges or intent to use drugs and alcohol and are often so overwhelming that it’s hard to concentrate on anything other than thoughts of using drugs or alcohol. 

Cravings are a normal part of addiction recovery. But just because they’re normal doesn’t mean they’re not disruptive. In fact, cravings are one of the most common causes of relapse–a return to substance use after a period of abstinence. Relapses are common, with about 85% of people in recovery experiencing at least one. 

Learning about cravings and having a plan in place to manage them can help you avoid relapse and remain committed to sobriety. 

Why Do People Experience Drug and Alcohol Cravings?

Drugs and alcohol change your brain’s structure and chemical makeup during periods of regular or heavy use. These substances can cause a flood of Dopamine–a brain chemical involved in pleasure and reward– in the brain each time you use them. 

Over time, the brain’s reward center becomes dependent on these floods of this feel-good chemical. The brain makes connections between external cues and the Dopamine rush it needs, meaning just the sight or thought of drugs and alcohol can trigger a craving. 

People may experience especially strong cravings during detox when their body is going through withdrawal. Drug and alcohol withdrawal can be so brutally uncomfortable that many desire the immediate relief using substances will bring. For this reason, it’s essential to have support, supervision, and treatment during detox to avoid withdrawal. 

What Can Trigger Cravings?

Being in places where you used to drink or use drugs, seeing people use substances, or handling paraphernalia can all trigger a craving to use drugs and alcohol again. Some other common triggers include:

  • Going to places where you used to buy or use drugs
  • Seeing people selling or using drugs
  • Being in a bar or event where people are drinking
  • Spending time with others who drink or use drugs
  • Smelling or sipping alcohol
  • Handling, seeing, or smelling the substance
  • Periods of intense stress
  • Problems at work or in your relationships
  • Pain from an injury or chronic health condition
  • Mental illness
  • Seeing or reading about drug use

Other things can trigger you, so it’s important to be aware of what specific situations cause a desire to use drugs and alcohol for you–and plan to avoid them whenever possible. 

In time, your cravings will become less intense, and you may be able to engage with triggering things. But this can take a lot of time, so be especially cautious early in recovery. 

Tips to Manage Cravings in Recovery

Some prescription medications can help you manage the symptoms of cravings and reduce their frequency or intensity. In most cases, these will be prescribed to you within a substance abuse treatment program so that you can be monitored while taking them. 

In addition to medications, there are some practical, everyday habits you can adopt that may help you manage your drug and alcohol cravings. Drug and alcohol rehab centers are designed to promote and help you embrace these healthy habits. Here are some of the best ways to handle your cravings.

Reduce your stress

Stress is a significant trigger for many people. Without learning how to reduce and cope with your stress in healthy ways, you may be more likely to rely on drugs and alcohol. Addiction treatment centers offer behavioral therapy to help you understand the root cause of your stress as well as holistic healing services such as yoga or meditation that can provide healthy outlets for stress.


Exercise can boost your mood, improve your self-esteem, strengthen your body, and lower anxiety and depression. Research shows that people who exercise regularly sleep better and have more energy. You don’t have to do intense workouts in a gym to get the benefits of exercise–just a quick walk in your neighborhood or some yoga each day can help.

Identify your triggers

There are some common relapse triggers to be aware of, but it’s important to know what unique situations can lead to an urge to use drugs and alcohol again. Your triggers may be unexpected or surprising–and that’s OK. Understanding your triggers can help you avoid them or be prepared to manage them when they arise. During rehab, your therapist will help you identify potential triggers and come up with a way to deal with them.

Find support

Being able to express and process your feelings and cravings is essential to your recovery. For many, drugs and alcohol provide an escape from their challenges and emotions. Facing them is crucial so that you can move forward into a healthier future. Support from a counselor, therapist, or support group is critical to your recovery. 

Get Help Now

Recovery from drug and alcohol addiction means treating the addiction’s physical, emotional, and behavioral aspects. You must develop new skills and routines that support a healthy, sober lifestyle. Comprehensive addiction treatment can help you at each stage of your recovery, from detox to aftercare. 

Reach out to the caring specialists at the Mandala Healing Center to learn more about our holistic approach to addiction treatment. Don’t wait another day for the care you deserve. Call today.