In the United States, over 25 percent of people aged 18 or older admitted binge drinking or abusing alcohol. While drinking alcohol is a popular way to socialize, the abuse of alcohol can lead to addiction. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 10 percent of Americans struggle with alcohol abuse disorder.
People who struggle with an alcohol abuse disorder and seek treatment are much more likely to remain sober and avoid relapses. Of course, almost all the people who have an alcohol abuse disorder and stop drinking will experience alcohol cravings, which makes it more challenging to remain sober.
People who feel an uncontrollable urge to drink may need to find different coping strategies. Treatment can help people examine their relationship with alcohol and begin to build a foundation of recovery.
Where Do Alcohol Cravings Come From?
Alcohol cravings come from the usage of alcohol over a sustained period of time. They usually arise when someone drinks heavily and frequents, or someone, who binge drinks, may experience cravings.
While not everyone who drinks experiences cravings for alcohol when they stop drinking for a period of time, it’s always a possibility. Most substance abuse and mental health professionals believe these cravings indicate alcohol abuse disorder.
How long do Alcohol Cravings Last?
For the first week after a person stops drinking, they will experience extreme cravings for alcohol, and these cravings might be accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. The cravings should ease after the first week.
However, a person, who struggles with alcohol abuse disorder, may continue to experience frequent cravings for as long as a month or two after they detox. A person might continue to experience the occasional craving throughout the rest of their life.
Tips to Manage Alcohol Cravings
Anyone, who struggles with alcohol cravings and wants to avoid drinking, needs to develop tools to manage their cravings. What works for one person won’t always work for another.
The person may need to try a few methods of managing alcohol cravings before finding what works best for them. It might be a combination of things that help a person avoid drinking when a craving hits. Here are a few tips:
Know the triggers
Most people experience cravings for alcohol when a trigger happens. This can be something emotional, such as feelings of sadness or grief. It can also be an external trigger. For example, the craving for a beer while watching the big game.
When people know their triggers, they can work to avoid them or prepare for the craving to arrive, such as placing themselves in a position where they can’t drink.
When a craving hits, staying busy can help to minimize its effects. It might be taking some time to read a book or work on a project. The person experiencing the craving might tackle some housework or mow the yard. Physical activity can redirect a person’s thoughts away from the craving, or it might be a complex activity to keep their mind busy during this time.
Have a network of support
A person struggling to stay sober should have a network of friends and family members that they can call or visit when a craving begins. This network can help them work through the craving and help the person remember how hard they’ve worked to get sober and the importance of remaining that way. It might also be the support of a group meeting or therapy session.
Consider the consequences
For people with an alcohol abuse disorder, the consequences of giving in to a craving can be drastic. It might be the trust of a loved one or a ticket for driving under the influence. When cravings hit, the person needs to stop and take stock of what the consequences could be of taking a drink. This should be harsh enough that the person can manage their cravings.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Meditation, yoga, and other activities help the person look inward and find the strength they need to overcome their cravings for alcohol. This type of activity can also benefit the person in other ways, such as relieving stress that might be a trigger for the craving. There are many types of mindfulness and meditation practices, and a person struggling with alcohol cravings can try several before finding one that works.
Medications for Alcohol Cravings
When the tips for managing alcohol cravings don’t work as well as the person would like, they can turn to their doctor for a prescription. These medications aren’t addictive, so the person isn’t trading one addiction for another. The person’s doctor should evaluate them, their needs, and their personal goals to select the right medication. The top two choices are:
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Naltrexone can be used to help a person with an alcohol abuse disorder stay sober. This medication minimizes the euphoric and sedative effects of alcohol, so if the person does take a drink, it doesn’t deliver the feeling that it once did. It is taken daily in pill form for patients with alcohol abuse disorder.
This medication can be started as soon as the person begins to withdraw from heavy drinking. It won’t help with the withdrawal symptoms, but it will help to lessen and blunt the cravings for alcohol. This medication works with the brain chemistry of the patient, and it’s taken daily in pill form.
Help is Available at New Method Wellness
Although it takes work and dedication, it’s possible to manage alcohol cravings and live a sober lifestyle after struggling with an alcohol abuse disorder. How to stop alcohol cravings varies from one person to the next, and it’s up to the person with cravings to find the method that works best for them.
Many treatment programs can help people manage their drinking habits. However, it is important to find a drug and alcohol rehab that provides specialized treatment for patients.
At New Method Wellness, we can help someone with a substance use disorder at any stage of their journey to recovery. From help detoxing to managing cravings, we provide consistent care and compassion.
Contact us today with any questions and to learn more.