How to Deal with Cravings When Recovering from Alcoholism

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Apr 7, 2016

How to Deal with Cravings When Recovering from Alcoholism


Recovering from alcoholism is a long and gradual process that takes time, commitment, and external support. Successful recovery depends on multiple systems working together in unison, including detox, medication therapy, behavioral therapy, and aftercare support systems. Detox helps people stop drinking, rehab addresses the emotional and environmental precedents of alcoholism, and aftercare promotes long-term recovery. In order to tackle alcoholism effectively, the physical and psychological bonds of addiction both need to be broken.

Dealing With Cravings When Recovering from Alcoholism

While medical alcoholism detox and pharmacotherapy regimes treat the physical nature of addiction, psychotherapy programs are also needed to help alcoholics deal with cravings and avoid unwanted impulsive and compulsive behavioral responses.

How to Deal with Cravings When Recovering from Alcoholism

What It Means to Have an Addiction to Alcohol

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is a broad term used to describe a wide spectrum of problematic drinking behaviors. While the previous psychiatric classifications of alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence were combined in 2013 as alcohol use disorder, they are still separated in the context of treatment. Alcohol abuse is recognized by uncontrolled drinking patterns despite negative consequences. Generally speaking, someone is said to have a drinking problem whenever drinking is causing problems in their life and they continue to drink anyway. Alcohol dependence is recognized by the existence of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when drinking is stopped or reduced. Possible physical symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, cramps, seizures, and delirium tremens. Possible psychological symptoms include depression, anxiety, as well as a lack of motivation and alcohol cravings.

Alcohol Cravings and Psychological Dependence

Alcohol dependence is associated with physical-somatic and emotional-motivational withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use. While physical symptoms can be treated effectively through medical detox and pharmacotherapy routines, it’s just as important to treat the psychological undercurrents of alcoholism. Alcohol abuse and dependence are learned behaviors that develop over time, with unhealthy psychological associations developing slowly as a response to intrinsically rewarding and positively reinforcing drinking patterns.

How to Deal with Cravings When Recovering from Alcoholism

Alcohol cravings and other psychological symptoms can be treated effectively through cognitive, behavioral, and motivational methods. Common treatment modalities include motivational interviewing, motivational incentives, family therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. While these methods of treatment are all very different from one another, they all attempt to alter the problematic behavior patterns linked with addiction. Individual recovery programs are often based on cognitive behavioral therapy, a popular form of psychotherapy that helps people to recognize problematic emotional and cognitive patterns in order to avoid relapse.

Relapse Prevention When Recovering from Alcoholism

Relapse is a common feature of drug and alcohol addiction. Relapse prevention techniques are often applied during alcohol addiction rehab, with dedicated relapse prevention systems also administered on an aftercare basis. During a typical program, therapists will teach patients how to identify potential triggers, avoid high-risk situations, and develop new coping mechanisms. This is an important part of substance abuse therapy because it helps people to recognize and manage their cravings before they lead to unwanted impulsive and compulsive behavior patterns. Individual and group counseling can also help people to manage their cravings, including 12-step support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

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