How to Stop Craving Drugs

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Discovering how to stop craving drugs is one of the most valuable things you will learn in your early recovery. Drug cravings are one of the diagnostic criteria for drug addiction (substance use disorder), as outlined in DSM-5-TR, the fifth and most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

 During detox and recovery from drug addiction, intense cravings and urges to use drugs may present at any time. If you are unprepared for this, you may find these initial cravings are so overpowering that you relapse purely to alleviate the urges. 

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Fortunately, drug cravings are both fleeting and reasonably predictable. The more aware you become of your personal triggers for substance use, the more robustly you will cope with cravings for drugs. 

Today’s guide shows you how to stop drug cravings by employing healthy coping techniques and making lifestyle changes as you move from active addiction into ongoing recovery. 

Why Do Drug Cravings Occur?

Drug cravings occur as a response to internal or external triggers. Many of those in recovery from drug addiction encounter triggers from both of these categories. 

Most internal addiction triggers involve memories, emotions, or thoughts that promote the urge to use drugs. Alternatively, internal triggers may be related to physical sensations. Some of the most common internal addiction triggers include: 

  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Stress
  • Sadness
  • Irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Anger

External triggers are environmental cues that cause you to think of using drugs. External triggers are typically categorized as follows: 

  • Places
  • People
  • Situations
  • Objects
  • Occasions

The more you familiarize yourself with the internal and external triggers that drive you to use addictive substances, the more you can minimize your exposure to those triggers. 

A woman wrestles with the question of how to stop craving drugs

How to Drop Craving Drugs

There is no way you can completely eliminate drug cravings, but there are some simple steps you can take to manage cravings more effectively and to minimize the likelihood of relapse in recovery. 

  1. Connect with your sober support system
  2. Practice relaxation techniques
  3. Learn to accept drug cravings and how to effectively manage them
  4. Use distraction techniques like going outside for a walk
  5. Engage the services of a mental health professional

1) Connect with your sober support system

Your first line of defense against powerful drug cravings should be to reach out to your sober support network. 

You may attend a peer support group like NA (Narcotics Anonymous), AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), or SMART Recovery. If so, go to a meeting or reach out to your sponsor if drug cravings present. 

Not everyone in recovery from drug addiction chooses to engage with peer support groups, though. You can contact any sober friend or trusted family member if you feel unable to cope with cravings. Sometimes, just having someone to listen to your experience might be enough for the urge to use drugs to pass. 

2) Practice relaxation techniques

Most people in recovery from drug addiction find that tense and stressful situations lead to the manifestation of drug cravings. 

Mindfulness is a technique that helps you to remain more aware of the present moment, acknowledging drug cravings but allowing those feelings to pass. 

You could also consider the following practices: 

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Grounding techniques
  • Stretching
  • Meditation

3) Learn to accept drug cravings and how to effectively manage them

Cravings for drugs are an inevitable part of recovery, so you can try facing cravings head-on in the following way: 

  • Stop and acknowledge cravings for drugs when they manifest.
  • Accept that craving for what it is.
  • Do not try to force the urge to go away.
  • Sit down and close your eyes. Observe your feelings and thoughts, as well as physical sensations in your body. Verbally acknowledge the way you are feeling.

Implementing this technique will demonstrate that cravings may be intense, but they are also fleeting and pass in fifteen minutes or so. 

4) Use distraction techniques like going outside for a walk

Once you understand that cravings are a natural part of recovery, you may find that distraction is a more effective approach to dealing with cravings than confronting them directly. 

If so, exercise can deliver physical and mental health benefits, while also calming you if you become agitated and start craving drugs. 

5) Engage the services of a mental health professional

If you are finding cravings so unmanageable that you fear relapse, you should consider connecting with a counsellor or therapist. 

By working with a counselor, they can: 

  • Identify any mental health symptoms.
  • Explore the needs you once fulfilled by taking drugs.
  • Develop and implement healthier stress management techniques.
  • Learn how to utilize mindfulness techniques.
  • Reframe self-defeating and negative thoughts.

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a form of psychotherapy (talk therapy) proven effective for the treatment of drug addictions. 

A psychotherapist can help you to deal with cravings by redirecting your attention, by distracting yourself, and by using relaxation techniques. CBT will also sharpen your awareness of your personal addiction triggers. 

The most effective way to manage cravings is to commit to inpatient or outpatient rehab program offering evidence-based treatment. We can help you with that here at California Detox. 

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Drug Addiction Treatment at California Detox

We offer drug addiction treatment at all levels on ASAM’s continuum of care at California Detox in Orange County, including:

  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • Outpatient programs
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Virtual IOPs (remote rehab)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for drug addiction with co-occurring mental health disorder)

You can kickstart your recovery at California Detox by engaging with our supervised medical detox program. Over the course of a week or so, you will have access to emotional and clinical care around-the-clock, as well as FDA-approved medications to streamline drug withdrawal. 

All California Detox programs involve a personalized treatment plan that will draw from these pharmacological and behavioral interventions: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)

When you’re ready to move from active drug addiction into ongoing recovery, build the firmest foundation here at California Detox in Orange County. Call 949.390.5377 today for immediate assistance.


Detoxing from drugs is the first phase of recovery. This allows you to address the physical component of dependence. Once the toxins are purged from your system, it is vital to tackle the psychological aspect of drug addiction. MAT (medication-assisted treatment) can be beneficial for the treatment of opioid addiction. All addictions respond positively to behavioral interventions like counseling and psychotherapy. A therapist will help you to identify what triggers you to use drugs, and you will learn to implement healthy coping techniques in place of prescription medications or illicit drugs. There is no cure for drug addiction, but sustained recovery is possible.
Drug cravings are an emotional response to internal and external triggers. Between 40% and 60% of those in recovery will relapse at least once, often in response to unmanageable drug cravings.


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