According to one report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 1.6 million U.S. individuals, aged 12 or older, had a methamphetamine (meth) use disorder within the last 12 months. That’s around 0.6% of the total population. If you’re trying to overcome a meth addiction, we understand how painful and difficult this process can be.
It’s also one of the bravest and most important things you could ever do.
Your addiction recovery center can equip you with the personnel, tools, and resources required to help you overcome and work through your cravings. Today, we’re sharing a few of the most effective ways to curb them so you can focus on getting better, one step at a time.
Understand What Causes Meth Cravings
Before we talk about how to curtail them, let’s discuss what meth cravings are in the first place, and what causes them.
In short, meth is a very powerful stimulant drug. When you take it, it activates your central nervous system (CNS), which consists of your brain and spinal cord. As it passes through your brain, it affects multiple neurotransmitters, including dopamine.
Known as a feel-good hormone, dopamine triggers intense euphoria, which explains the rush of joy you feel soon after taking meth. When you make the decision to withdraw from this substance, your body will naturally begin to crave those sensations. This is because withdrawal essentially rewires the reward system in your brain, prompting you to seek those highs in any way possible.
At the same time, you may also crave the people, experiences, or memories that you associate with taking the drug. For instance, the sight of a certain person may make you want to use meth or you might crave it strongly when you’re in a specific mood.
Put simply, a meth craving is a strong desire or urge to use the drug. While some of the reaction is biological, it’s also a learned response developed over time. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of craving, and it can vary in intensity, frequency, and duration for each person.
Know the Symptoms
Following a period of meth abuse, cravings are a normal and expected part of the recovery process.
Still, it’s important to identify them when you experience them, so you can know how to react. Some of the symptoms of meth cravings include:
- A strong urge to use meth that’s difficult to ignore
- An inability to focus on anything else except using meth
- Intrusive, recurring thoughts about meth
- Feelings of distress when thinking about meth
Learn the Triggers
Meth cravings occur most often in people who have just stopped using meth and are experiencing withdrawal. However, they can also occur in people who haven’t used the substance in several years.
Once your brain begins to associate feelings of euphoria and pleasure with meth abuse, it will look for internal and external cues to recreate that feeling. Over time, you may begin to experience cravings when you come into contact with those cues.
At a certain point, the cues and the substance abuse can become intertwined. When that happens, it can be difficult to discern if you’re using meth because you want to feel euphoric, or if you’re feeling euphoric over the idea of using meth.
In either case, it helps to understand your triggers and cues. Some of the most common ones include:
- Physical pain or discomfort
- Sensory sensations (e.g. sights, odors)
- Interacting with people you associate with meth
- Visiting people you associate with meth
- Experiencing situations that remind you of using meth
- Seeing or handling drug paraphernalia
Of course, you might not realistically be able to avoid all of these circumstances, all of the time. However, it is helpful to identify what’s driving you toward meth so you can be aware of how it’s affecting your day-to-day life.
Stopping Cravings and Preventing Relapse
Seeking help is a critical first step toward escaping the stronghold of meth and living a healthier, happier life. In many cases, meth relapse is often part of the recovery process.
This occurs when a person returns to using meth after abstaining from the substance for a certain amount of time. If you cannot find healthy and effective ways to recover from a relapse, it can lead to devastating outcomes, including overdose.
Your recovery specialist can walk you through techniques designed to manage your cravings and minimize your likelihood of relapse.
As mentioned, simply understanding your cues and triggers is one of the most effective ways to stay clean during recovery. When you complete this exercise and gain this level of self-awareness and understanding, you’ll know which situations to avoid.
While this is a great place to start, there are other tips and techniques that can help you successfully complete your recovery program and avoid a relapse in the long term. Let’s take a look at a few of the top ones.
A visualization is a picture that you make in your brain. It can be of anything.
In this case, you can visualize yourself on the other side of this journey, meeting all of the goals you’ve set for yourself. Visualize how happy, healthy, and content you feel.
You can also visualize how uncomfortable and painful you feel when you’re in the throes of meth addiction. Comparing the two images side-by-side, it becomes easier to strive for the brighter, more promising one.
While this process might sound overly simplistic, the reality is that it forces you to go deep inside your mind and unpack some topics you might have been pushing away. When you visualize the situations that got you into meth, you can start to understand how intricate and multi-layered your condition is.
In the past few years, self-care has become a bit of a buzzword. However, it’s especially important if you’re trying to avoid a meth craving.
When you’re feeling overly stressed out, you’re more likely to turn to your old habits to help you cope. Yet, keep in mind that while using meth might deliver a short-lived rush, all of those stressors will still be waiting when you come back down.
Instead of masking your stress, learn healthy ways to combat it instead, such as:
- Taking a warm bath
- Listening to soothing music
- Practicing yoga
- Taking deep breaths
- Spending time in nature
It might take a little time to find the stress-relieving practices that work best for you. Give yourself space to explore and discover what brings you peace and lean into those practices as you work through recovery.
Talk About It
When you’re going through recovery, it can feel isolating. Thankfully, you don’t have to push through this process on your own. There are treatment programs designed specifically for individuals who are addicted to meth.
Often, these programs will include some type of group therapy, where you can talk about your experiences with trained therapists, as well as peers who have been (and are currently in) the same situation that you are in.
In addition to these professional programs, don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend, neighbor, or loved one. Often, talking about your cravings is enough to dispel them. When those feelings and sensations build up within you, they can eventually overflow, which could lead to havoc.
Segment Your Day
When you’re in meth recovery, trying to go an entire day without abusing the drug can sound incredibly daunting.
Instead of looking at your life in 12-hour segments, break it into much smaller pieces. Every 15 minutes or so, try to take a mental health break such as a deep breath.
When you segment your day like this, it becomes easier to manage. You might not feel capable of withdrawing until sundown, but you can avoid using meth for the next 15 minutes. Before long, the sun will be setting and you’re another day closer.
Engage in Healthy Habits
Meth cravings tend to hit the hardest and last the longest when you’re sitting alone with nothing to do. To keep them at bay, try to fill your schedule with healthy, uplifting activities that bring you joy!
This might mean playing an instrument or going for a walk. You can learn a new hobby, or read a book in a genre you love. There’s no right or wrong answer, but the key is to be intentional with your time and attention.
At the same time, you don’t want to overload your schedule so much that it fills to the brim. When this happens, it can be more stressful than enjoyable. Be sure to pencil in plenty of time for relaxation, too!
Overcome Meth Addiction Cravings and Struggles
During your journey away from meth addiction, you may encounter struggles. These include meth cravings, which form when your brain and body are no longer receiving the dopamine hit they’re used to.
To quell those cravings, the first step is to understand what’s driving them in the first place, so you can avoid those triggers. You can also find healthy distractions, practice self-care, segment your day, and talk to others about your experience.
If you’re ready to take the first step away from addiction, call us at (866) 578-7471 and we’ll take it with you.