Curbing Your Drug Cravings to Avoid Relapsing

If you're trying to quit a drug or you're coming down from a binge, drug cravings are an expected reaction. If you've been off drugs for a while or have not used drugs heavily, the following tips can help you to curb your drug cravings, and ride out the urge to use without falling off the wagon.

Withdrawal from some drugs, such as heavy alcohol use, benzodiazepines and, in some cases, meth or opiates, can be risky without medical help. See your doctor or check into a detox facility if this applies to you.


Take a Walk

A young man in sunglasses takes a walk
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Almost any form of exercise will help you get through a bout of cravings. Walking tops the list. There are so many benefits of walking, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual effects. If you are not physically able to walk, getting out in the fresh air can help reduce cravings and lift your mood.

Getting outside and taking in some of the world around you, with no particular purpose other than to feel better, really works. The gentle, bilateral stimulation of walking is great for calming down an agitated mind.

With walking's positive effects on breathing and the nervous system, you'll find the cravings will subside considerably after 15 to 30 minutes.


Talk It Out

A concerned woman talks on the phone
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For many people, talking about how they feel when they are having cravings can help them feel more in control. It's great to have a companion when you're quitting or coming down from drugs. If you do, this is a good time to let them know how you feel. Tell them they don't have to say anything, that it would help just to have them listen to you.

Don't have anyone you can trust? There are plenty of places to turn for a sympathetic ear.

Some outpatient drug treatment centers allow people to drop in, offer emergency appointments or have daily or weekly intake sessions. You might not be able to talk to someone immediately, but it is worth checking out.

If you can afford to pay, many private counselors and psychologists will be able to see you at short notice. They are listed in the phone book or online.

If you don't want professional help but just want someone to talk to, there are plenty of options. Just look in your phone book or online and you'll find a crisis line in your area, where people are trained to listen and help those in need of a kind and understanding human contact.

Another option is to talk to your doctor, who might prescribe a non-addicting medication proven to help reduce or eliminate craving. Even if you aren't religious, churches are often staffed by people who have a deep capacity for compassion and caring.

It may be important for you to talk to someone who understands your particular situation. This is where self-help groups can help. But sometimes they can be quite triggering, especially if they like to share "war stories." So, don't go to an NA group when you are having cravings unless it's a group you know well and you know it provides a safe space.

Drug helplines are often a smart choice. You won't have to listen to anyone talking about getting high. Instead, you'll talk to a trained counselor or volunteer who knows what you're going through and who may have been through it as well.


Take a Bath

Man relaxing in a bath
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Soothing to body and mind, a good, warm bath can help you get through a bout of cravings. It will also cleanse and deal with any discomfort, such as aching muscles. Some people find Epsom salts make a bath extra soothing. You can pick those up cheaply at your local pharmacy.



Woman meditating
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Meditation clears the mind and calms the body. It is free and easy to teach yourself. It can lead to greater spiritual awareness. If you try mindfulness meditation, you will be able to meditate anytime, anywhere.


Express Your Feelings

young adult woman playing air guitar with a badminton racket
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There are many ways to express your feelings, and this technique can really help you work through the urge to use it again. Some of the most effective ways to express yourself include drumming, dancing, doing art, and singing along with your favorite music. If you are more verbally inclined and don't feel like talking, try composing poetry or writing your feelings down in a journal.

Immersing yourself in your feelings rather than trying to escape them with drugs can be a truly transformative experience.


Eat Something

A woman holding a muffin.

Karl Tapales/Getty Images

Some people may find that eating sweets or foods containing carbohydrates may help them control cravings for alcohol when they are first trying to stop drinking. It is important to remember that this isn't something that you would want to rely on too heavily or do in the long-term since it might lead to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be helpful during the early stages of quitting drinking.

While the use of sweets is popular lore for reducing alcohol cravings, a 2020 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found no evidence that sweets reduced alcohol cravings. However, carbohydrates have been found to elevate mood, so it may be possible that eating high carbohydrate foods may improve mood when giving up alcohol.

Eating a healthy diet can be very important. Supplements may also help some people. This can all be part of following a healthy lifestyle that may help people to overcome cravings.

Cravings can feel overwhelming, but in a short time, they pass. Learn to "ride the wave," and practice these approaches to coping, and you will become more confident in your recovery.

9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.