Here at The Cabin Chiang Mai, we get many questions regarding drugs and alcohol. A common question that gets asked not only by people writing to us or calling us, but also by our patients, is how long will it take for drug or alcohol cravings to go away? We feel that this is an important question, but unfortunately there is no simple or direct answer to it.
The reason there is not a simple answer is because there are three things that each individual must take into consideration. One must consider the drug that they were addicted to, as each one is different. They must consider that everyone is different; their body, their chemistry, etc. Lastly, they must consider their psychological and subconscious triggers.
Different Drugs Means Different Addiction
Many people think that the more quickly a drug leaves the body, the fewer cravings they will have. This is not true. Every drug is different. Some drugs create such a physical dependence; such as opiates. This means that the addict’s body can take a long time to fully detox. Other drugs such as methamphetamine are flushed out of the body pretty quickly.
However, just because one drug leaves the body more quickly than another does not mean that the addict will not have cravings; it just means that they may not experience a severe withdrawal.
Take for example a cocaine addict. They were addicted to cocaine for several years. Once they decided to get help, the drug was eliminated from their body rather quickly, but they still had some unpleasant withdrawal. Two years later and they still have intense cravings for cocaine. These cravings may persist longer if the person used the drug for many years before quitting.
People are Different
Every person will experience different cravings and the amount of cravings depending on the drug they were addicted to and for how long. There are some fortunate people who get decide to get clean very fast into their addiction, they have a quick withdrawal, and never have to look back. They don’t have intense cravings, just an occasional thought about using.
Then there are people who get clean after a long period of use and for months or even years they struggle with intense cravings. These cravings may come every day; unfortunately they may get so bad that the person may relapse if they are not prepared.
Every addict will have different triggers; or things that make them want to use. We now know that a person can be triggered subconsciously. In other words, a recovering addict may have intense cravings without knowing what triggered their cravings.
For example, an addict may suddenly experience intense cravings when a song they got high/drunk to is played on the radio, subconsciously this song triggered their cravings. The strangest thing is that the person may have not even heard the song playing or recognized it, but their subconscious did. So when they have these sudden cravings, they may not understand why. Triggers can happen long after drugs are out of the system and years into recovery.
What to Do About Cravings?
Cravings are not an easy thing to deal with, but there are certain things that a recovering addict can do to help cope with them.
Talk About Them
Talking to another recovering addict about cravings can be very useful, this is because keeping it inside may cause the craving to actually intensify and eventually may lead the person to relapse.
Talk with people at an AA or NA meeting. Each and every one of them will have experienced cravings, or still are experiencing cravings, to different drugs and at different times during their recovery. Most will share this valuable info to try and help you battle through yours by offering advice and tips.
Find a Distraction
Anytime a craving occurs during recovery, it may help a recovering addict to involve themselves in some sort of healthy activity. This may be a visit to an AA/NA or addiction related meeting, a fitness or hobby class, or a walk outside. This can help the recovering addict to focus on something more positive.
Writing down situations that lead to cravings can help bring relief and allows the addict to get everything off their chest.
All in all it will completely depend on the individual themselves. There is no way for anyone to tell a recovering addict or their families how long it will take for drug or alcohol cravings to go away. The good news is that with time, most cravings will gradually subside.