Substance Use

How to Stop Alcohol Cravings: Expert Tips for Effective Management

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When people develop an alcohol addiction, they will likely have cravings for alcohol when they aren’t actively drinking. Even some people who aren’t alcoholics still have cravings for the substance. Dealing with alcohol cravings from alcohol dependence is one problem that makes recovery incredibly tricky.

Most times, alcohol cravings are a psychological response to certain situations or from exposure to a trigger. Overcoming these cravings often involves various strategies such as alcohol detox, alcohol rehab, cognitive-behavioral therapy, support groups, and lifestyle adjustments.

It’s essential for individuals working towards recovery to recognize their triggers and develop healthier coping mechanisms to navigate these cravings effectively.

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What Exactly Are Alcohol Cravings?

Alcohol cravings often stem from specific triggers that vary among individuals. (1) These triggers can manifest when someone associates drinking with certain places, events, or people. The desire for alcohol arises due to the anticipation of recreating positive emotions and experiences linked to those situations.

When confronted with their triggers, individuals may experience both psychological and physical changes. Psychologically, the memories of enjoyable past drinking experiences intensify the craving.

Physically, cravings may result in symptoms such as the following:

  • Sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

The intensity and nature of these responses can differ significantly from person to person and may vary based on the circumstances. (2)

What Do Cravings Feel Like?

Cravings for alcohol can encompass a wide range of sensations, both psychological and physical. Understanding these sensations can help individuals identify and manage alcohol cravings effectively.

Some common aspects of what cravings feel like include:

  1. Psychological Distress: Alcohol cravings often generate significant psychological distress. People may feel a strong urge, obsession, or preoccupation with obtaining and consuming alcohol.
  2. Irritability and Anxiety: Cravings can trigger heightened irritability and anxiety. Individuals may become restless and uncomfortable when the desire for alcohol intensifies.
  3. Intense Thoughts: Cravings are often accompanied by a surge of intense thoughts about alcohol. These thoughts may involve past drinking experiences, the taste of alcohol, or the perceived relief alcohol might provide.
  4. Physical Symptoms: Alcohol cravings can manifest physically. Some individuals experience symptoms like sweating, a racing heart, and even shaking as the craving becomes more pronounced. (3)
  5. Difficulty Concentrating: Cravings can make it challenging to concentrate on tasks or engage in activities unrelated to drinking. The fixation on alcohol can hinder a person’s ability to focus on daily responsibilities.
  6. Emotional Instability: Cravings may lead to emotional instability, with mood swings, irritability, and frustration becoming more prominent.
  7. Loss of Control: People experiencing cravings may feel a loss of control over their thoughts and actions, particularly in resisting the urge to drink.

What Causes You to Crave Alcohol?

Do you know the underlying causes of alcohol cravings? Knowing and understanding these triggers are important for managing them effectively. These cravings can be triggered by various factors, including:

  1. Environmental Triggers: Specific places, situations, or events can serve as strong triggers for alcohol cravings. These might include social gatherings, bars, or even the home environment where alcohol was frequently consumed.
  2. Emotional States: Emotional triggers play a significant role in alcohol cravings. Stress, sadness, anger, or anxiety can prompt individuals to seek solace in alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  3. Cues and Associations: People often create strong associations between certain activities or people and alcohol consumption. These associations can lead to cravings when exposed to those cues or individuals.
  4. Positive Past Experiences: Pleasant memories of past drinking experiences can evoke a desire to replicate those enjoyable moments, resulting in cravings.
  5. Routine and Habit: Daily routines and habits that involve drinking, such as having a drink after work, can trigger cravings at specific times of the day.
  6. Neurological Factors: Alcohol can directly impact brain chemistry, leading to changes that increase cravings for the substance. (4)
  7. Psychological Factors: People with underlying psychological conditions, such as depression or anxiety, may experience cravings as a way to self-medicate and alleviate their emotional distress.

Managing Alcohol Cravings: Immediate Solutions

If a person wants to control alcohol cravings and substance abuse successfully, they usually need to quit drinking altogether. To quit drinking, the person will need either treatment, counseling, a set treatment program, or medication. These make the process easier and more manageable. (5

At times, a person might require a mix of these techniques to help them beat binge drinking. It’s crucial to keep in mind that those who choose to drink regularly or excessively will eventually face various harmful consequences for their health.

Here are some of the best solutions to manage your alcohol use disorder and mental health:

1. Try to Distract Yourself

When a craving strikes, it’s essential to divert your attention from alcohol. Engage in activities that capture your focus and interest.

This could be reading a book, playing a game, or walking. Finding something engaging can help ease the urge to drink.

2. Take Deep Breaths

Deep breathing exercises can be remarkably effective in managing cravings. Slow, deep breaths can calm your mind and reduce the anxiety or stress that often accompanies cravings.

Try inhaling slowly through your nose, holding for a few seconds, and exhaling through your mouth.

3. Delay the Decision

Instead of giving in to an immediate urge, make a conscious decision to delay your response. Tell yourself that you’ll reconsider the craving in 15 minutes.

During this time, engage in another activity. Delaying can often lead to a decrease in the intensity of cravings.

4. Drink a Glass of Water

Hydration plays a vital role in managing cravings. Sometimes, your body may confuse thirst with a desire for alcohol. Drinking a glass of water can help quench your thirst and alleviate the craving. (6)

5. Get a Healthy Snack

A healthy snack can distract and satisfy your body’s nutrient needs. Opt for a snack that you enjoy but is also nutritious. This can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for drinking alcohol.

6. Call a Loved One

Reaching out to a supportive friend or family member can make a significant difference. Sometimes, a conversation with someone you trust can help you navigate your craving by providing encouragement, understanding, and a sense of connection.

Long-Term Coping Strategies to Curb Alcohol Cravings

Most people who experience cravings find it difficult to control on their own. One of the ways to control alcohol cravings is through medically assisted treatment.

Some medication-assisted strategies and interventions reduce the physical responses when experiencing alcohol cravings. These alcohol addiction treatments can curb cravings and make walking away from the situation more manageable.

Recognize and Avoid Internal and External Triggers

Identifying the specific situations or external and internal triggers, places, or people that trigger your alcohol cravings is a crucial step. For example, imagine you’ve noticed that you often crave a drink in a noisy, crowded bar after a stressful day at work. Recognizing this trigger allows you to create a plan to avoid or cope with such situations.

You might decide to meet friends at a quieter venue or practice relaxation techniques before heading to a social event.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Making healthy lifestyle choices can significantly impact your ability to curb alcohol cravings. Regular physical activity is one example. Engaging in activities like swimming, hiking, or dancing can not only improve your overall well-being but also release endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers.

Incorporating a balanced diet with supplements can give the body the nutrients it needs and maintain stable blood sugar levels, reducing cravings. (7)

Practice Coping Skills

Coping skills are valuable tools for managing alcohol cravings. One effective technique is mindfulness meditation. For instance, picture yourself using mindfulness when faced with a craving. 

You might focus on your breath, tuning in to its rhythm, and observe the sensations within your body. This can help you acknowledge the craving without acting on it. Most health professionals will offer various treatment options like this.

Prescription Medication

Using medication that helps reduce the urge to drink can be helpful for some people. One of the most common medications to help reduce alcohol cravings is ReVia, also known as naltrexone. (8)

This medication was created to help people with opioid cravings, but experts realized that it helps with alcohol cravings, too. (9) This medication provides relief. It’s essential to know details about its side effects. Consideration of current medical issues is also imperative. The usual dose for treating alcohol cravings is 50 milligrams once per day.

Another medication used to curb alcohol cravings is Campral. This drug also goes by the name acamprosate. This treatment works differently because it helps reduce the amount the drinker ingests. (10)  So, it prevents the person from drinking too much rather than reducing the desire to drink.

This might be an excellent treatment for someone who wants to still drink socially without going overboard and becoming intoxicated in the process. This medication doesn’t treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Campral is taken with each meal, and the average dose is 666 mg per day (taken as two 333-mg tablets, three times daily). (11)

Some anticonvulsant drugs, such as Topamax or topiramate, also work to reduce the cravings for alcohol. (12) There’s also a muscle relaxer called Gablofen or baclofen that helps some people with alcohol cravings.

Another approach is taking medication that makes the person violently ill when they drink. This drug is called Antabuse or disulfiram. The treatment helps the person not crave alcohol because of the unpleasant experience.  

Behavioral Therapy

While using medication to help reduce the cravings for alcohol can help, there’s also a need for managing the psychological aspect and improving behavioral health. The need to address the specific triggers that cause cravings is essential for recovery and helps make the process more effective.

If done correctly, therapy for alcohol addiction can reduce the number of triggers and urges a person has when trying to quit drinking. The goal is to identify the trigger and analyze the feeling the person gets from that trigger and how it relates to their drinking.

Part of behavioral therapy is also providing the patient with coping skills and other valuable strategies to help them overcome the desire for heavy drinking. (13)

Some methods used to treat the psychological aspect of alcohol cravings include:

  • Highlighting the things that trigger a person’s desire for alcohol can help them recognize situations in the future that might lead to craving alcohol. 
  • Helping the person identify their specific triggers and how to overcome them.
  • Pointing out that, while in recovery, it’s not uncommon for individuals to crave a substance they’re addicted to and that it’s not a sign of failure in recovery to crave alcohol.
  • Behavioral therapy points out the negative aspects of consuming alcohol, allowing the drinker to quit focusing on the good parts of drinking and keep the unfavorable aspects in mind. Eventually, the person will avoid alcohol to prevent a negative experience.
  • Teaching coping skills and strategies that make it easier not to drink.
  • Showing the person how to use mindfulness meditation to explore their feelings about alcohol but not act on urges.
  • Showing the patient how to get support from friends and family to overcome tough times.

The most commonly used treatment is substance use disorder therapy. This type of treatment uses varied approaches that treat each individual uniquely. Treating alcohol addiction with treatment and medication helps reduce the instances of relapse.

Some treatment techniques include diaphragmatic breathing, distractions, and education about each person’s triggers. It also involves showing them how to recognize these instances and use the methods and strategies they learn.

Support Groups

Joining support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, can offer a sense of community and shared experiences. Sharing your experiences, listening to their stories, and receiving encouragement can be incredibly empowering.

These connections can help you stay focused on your goal and provide guidance on managing cravings effectively. (14

Stop Drinking With Professional Help From Zinnia Health

Reaching out for help with alcohol addiction is never easy. Whether it’s you or someone you care about who has alcohol addiction, it’s essential to know that recovery is a process that begins with deciding to get help. If you’re attempting to help someone who has alcohol addiction, approach them with compassion and understanding.

Treatment specialists are highly trained to approach this subject in a caring manner. A healthcare provider aims to collect only the essential information they need to begin the admissions process.

They collect details such as medical history, a description of the addiction, and other relevant information. The process is quick and easy, so the person seeking admission doesn’t feel overwhelmed or intimidated.

Once the treatment center has all the information, they create a tailored plan, ensuring the person gets the specific alcohol addiction treatments they need to recover effectively.

Let us help you navigate the process of curbing alcohol cravings and get you on the road to recovery. Call Zinnia Health addiction help hotline at (855) 430-9439 today to find out more about how you can reclaim your life.


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Why call us? Why call us