A craving is a chemical response in the brain with both psychological and physiological effects. Cravings are usually a sign that a chemical dependency has developed. When cravings come on it indicates a few other things. First, that the brain has made a strong connection between reward and the substance of choice. Second, that the brain is beginning to prioritize the use of the substance over anything else. Third, the body is beginning to need the substance in order to function. Finally, a tolerance has been created, met, and surpassed, for the amount of substance it takes to achieve the desirable effect.
Challenge of Cravings
It is usually the cravings which prove to be the most challenging part of recovery. Cravings can start within hours of the last dose of a substance like drugs or alcohol. During the detox and withdrawal period, cravings are usually at their highest. Individuals can suffer extreme physical symptoms like tiredness, body aches, and pain. They can also suffer extreme psychological symptoms as well such as obsession, depression, anxiety, and panic. Getting through these intense cravings is difficult. After ten days to two weeks, usually the symptoms begin to subside and the cravings reduce. However, due to the chemical relationship the brain has built upon the substances, the cravings come up over time.
Through therapy and treatment, individuals learn that their cravings aren’t always autonomous but are often inspired by feelings, experiences, and events both internal and external. While learning coping mechanisms and tools for emotional regulation, individuals become skilled in assessing their cravings and working through them as opposed to giving into them.
PAWS, post acute withdrawal syndrome, can cause the symptoms of cravings to arise periodically throughout the first two years of sobriety. As the individual gains strength in body, mind, and spirit, they are better equipped to handle the cravings as they come, knowing that they soon shall pass.
The brain, on the other hand, is still convinced that a sign of craving might help it get more substances. According to Salon.com, “A vital new study shows that addictive cravings exist after life. A team of researchers have discovered addictive cravings are detectable in the brain after death. Researchers at Medical University Vienna have reported finding traces of a specific protein, FosB, that is altered in the reward center of the brain of people with addictive disorders, after death.”
The cravings may never go away entirely, but they will become less and less intrusive over time. Staying sober and living lifelong recovery holds many miracles and possibilities for healing.
If you or a loved one are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, call Avalon By The Sea today for a confidential assessment and information on our residential treatment programs: 1 888-958-7511.