How to Stop Alcohol Cravings? 5 Important Things You Must Know

We all know that alcohol abuse is a menace that has life-threatening effects on people. Still, regular consumption of alcohol makes it difficult for people to quit drinking and overcome alcohol cravings and alcohol addiction. You must be wondering, how to stop alcohol cravings.

Alcohol dependence seriously impacts the body and adversely affects one’s mental health. So it becomes indispensable to seek proper treatment if such alcohol cravings go out of hand.

Several factors trigger alcohol cravings, and identifying these factors is generally the first step to overcoming them.

So what are these triggers? Why and how do they develop? Read on as we try to answer these questions and learn more about alcohol cravings and their effects.

1. The Ill-Effects of Alcohol

Regular alcohol usage has serious short-term and long-term impacts on our minds and body. However, people tend to ignore the gravity of these after-effects in the present moment.

1.1 Short-Term Effects

Excessive inebriation causes an individual to lose the sense of judgment, motor abilities, and self-control for some time. This impaired sense of judgment might result in harmful incidents.

The loss of motor abilities might result in injuries caused due to accidents such as falls, vehicle crashes, or drownings.

Alcohol consumption has also been associated with increased violent tendencies in individuals, resulting in all sorts of dangerous acts, ranging from minor brawls to greater criminal acts like homicide 1or sexual violence after drinking alcohol.

Drinking excessive alcohol at once might cause a sudden spike in blood alcohol levels and cause alcohol poisoning, which might end up in the emergency room.

1.2 Long-Term Effects

Along with alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence, regular consumption of alcohol gives rise to several health problems in the long run.

Heart diseases, liver diseases, stroke, and various kinds of cancers are some diseases caused by drinking alcohol.

Mental health problems include memory loss and loss of cognitive abilities, eventually leading to more serious disorders such as dementia2, anxiety, and depression.

Stop Alcohol Cravings
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2. What Causes Alcohol Addiction?

So how does alcohol work? Drinking alcohol triggers the parts of the brain that release dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with positive feelings.

This causes frequent strong cravings in the individual, causing them to drink more and more alcohol.

However, the individual soon builds tolerance, and the pleasure induced by drinking alcohol reduces. But hold on! Here’s the catch. If a regular drinker suddenly decides to stop drinking, they experience withdrawal symptoms.

To avoid these symptoms, the individual might start drinking even more to reach a state of pleasure. The odds of one getting addicted to alcohol depend on the risk factors

2.1 Psychological Causes

Why exactly might one take to drinking alcohol? Well, alcohol cravings happen because of several psychological reasons.

One major psychological cause behind alcoholism can be past traumatic experiences, like physical or sexual abuse. Such experiences might lead to one experiencing frequent alcohol cravings to keep the thoughts related to the traumatic experience at bay.

Individuals with low self-esteem and impulsive tendencies are likelier to develop alcohol addiction. Similarly, high-stress levels might also cause urges to drink.

Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can be both a cause and consequence of alcohol addiction.

People dealing with such disorders often experience the urge to drink to overcome any negative emotion brought along by the disorder. Thus, alcohol use disorder is common among people suffering from depression or anxiety3.

2.2 Genetics

Individuals who are related to people with alcohol addiction are more at risk of developing it themselves. Genetics might cause one to crave alcohol.

Not only do genetics play a role here, but the presence of family members who indulge in alcohol abuse might considerably impact an individual’s attitudes towards alcohol consumption and cause them to take to drinking.

2.3 Underage or Frequent Drinking

People who start drinking alcohol in their early teenage years gradually become more and more dependent on it.

Similarly, frequent consumption of alcohol also causes one to depend on it and seek the pleasure associated with its consumption.

2.4 Triggers and Cues

Cue-induced craving for alcohol refers to an urge to drink specific happenings or situations that trigger it.

External or environmental cues that might be the reason behind alcohol cravings include interaction with a dysfunctional family, workplace stress, or relationship quarrels.

Once an individual resorts to alcohol to cope with these hassles, they start acting as external triggers that draw the individual more and more into the clutches of drinking addiction.

Apart from the environmental ones, several internal triggers might lead to one developing drinking habits. These might include certain physical sensations, negative feelings, or traumatic memories.

How to Avoid Drinking Triggers | Alcoholism

3. How to Stop Alcohol Cravings?

The recovery journey to overcome alcohol cravings can be a tedious one. However, the inability to handle urges to drink alcohol, in turn, causes one to feel guilty, creating a vicious cycle.

Therefore, to reduce cravings for alcohol, one needs to take certain measures. These measures aim to address cravings and their causes to avoid triggers that cause the individual to crave alcohol and promote general well-being.

Despite appearing simple and often unrelated, these measures go a long way to help an individual reduce alcohol cravings and quit drinking. Here are some of the steps.

3.1 Find a Distraction

Whenever you get even a fleeting thought about drinking alcohol, try diverting your mind from the craving by engaging in another activity you like.

Physical activities generally serve the purpose and go a long way in managing alcohol cravings. Try lifting weights, going for a jog, or doing any form of workout.

Some other relaxing activities you might try to do are reading, listening to music, watching content, and baking.

3.2 Spend Time with Your Loved Ones

Spending time with close people will provide immense emotional support in your journey to stop alcohol cravings.

Well-meaning people will always motivate you to strive towards your goal when needed.

Similarly, support groups play a vital role in the recovery journey of individuals suffering from alcohol use disorder to stop drinking and gain confidence.

Joining support groups is also a good idea as you interact with a recovery community that understands the problems you might face in the process.

3.3 Address the Triggers that Cause You to Crave Alcohol

Certain situations trigger most individuals who experience frequent alcohol cravings. Therefore, it becomes necessary to understand the causes behind one’s cravings and cues that might cause such urges to drink.

These triggers generally vary from person to person. Thus, the techniques to avoid these triggers also do.

To avoid the trigger, one has to avoid situations associated will alcohol. For example, staying away from events that might involve drinking and not going to places that serve alcohol.

3.4 Get Out of the Cycle

Cravings for alcohol work in a loop that involves cues, habits, and rewards. The occurrence of some stressful event might compel you to drink alcohol.

If this happens often, you might eventually develop a regular habit of drinking. This habit emerges mainly because of the reward that accompanies the consumption of alcohol in the form of a better mood or reduced stress levels4.

Once you understand this cycle properly, you can try different strategies to break out of it.

It might take a while to find the right one that can substitute the reward brought along by alcohol, but it will surely go a long way to stop alcohol cravings once you find it.

3.5 Seek Advice from a Mental Health Professional

Seeking therapy from a mental health professional specializing in substance abuse treatment can provide you with the correct guidance and direction in your recovery.

Therapy helps identify the cues and behavioral patterns related to alcohol cravings and come up with solutions to overcome them.

It also addresses any other mental health disorder that might cause cravings for alcohol and manage the stress and other symptoms it might bring.

Professional help makes the process of finding the right coping strategies much easier. In the long run, it helps adjust the negative thoughts and maladaptive behaviors to help you overcome the cravings and stop drinking.

Image by Priscilla Du Preez from Unsplash © 2020

3.6 Medication

True, just like any other regular habit developed over time, it is not easy to stop drinking just by wishing.

You might need some help overcoming the cravings that develop with regular consumption of alcohol. That’s what medications would provide you with.

Medications like naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram are generally prescribed to reduce alcohol cravings and help with substance abuse. However, consult a medical professional before taking any kind of medication to find which one will be right for you.

Medications for alcoholism are also available in the form of once-monthly injections. Naltrexone5, especially, is very effective in helping with chronic substance use.

4. Treatment Facilities

Giving up alcohol addiction is not a very linear process. Often, the withdrawal symptoms resulting from the sudden stop of alcohol intake can prove fatal.

Therefore, in such a high-risk situation, medical intervention becomes necessary. Treatment facilities and rehabs provide the proper medical support and address alcoholism holistically through various kinds of therapy.

Alcohol Rehab FAQ | Alcoholism

4.1 Inpatient and Ongoing Treatment

In-patient rehab centers provide the appropriate environment for an individual recovering from alcoholism6. It is a good choice for those who want to avoid distractions and daily hassles that might render other treatment plans ineffective.

On the other hand, ongoing recovery plans involve seeking help from support groups along with regular therapy plans. Support from family, friends, and other people you interact with regularly is indispensable in this process.

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous offer treatment programs that have proven effective for innumerable people trying to resume their normal life after it was hampered by alcoholism.

Alcoholism is a vice that has caught thousands in its clutches. The journey to overcome this menace that devastates one’s life and the lives of the people around them continues for many.

Groups like these provide an environment that enables interaction with others working towards recovery. This promotes a feeling of empathy among the members as they help each other in the journey.

Such a company, many times, is more understanding and receptive to the problems one might face during recovery than family and friends who cannot always grasp the issues to their full extent.

Once finished with the treatment program, it also becomes important to prevent relapse. Thus, it becomes essential to take the necessary steps after the treatment to prevent alcohol cravings in the future.

This also largely involves understanding the cues that cause alcohol cravings and trying to avoid them as much as possible. Staying away from situations that might lead one to drink is necessary even after the treatment.

support group
Image by Adrianna Geo from Unsplash © 2020

5. The Bottom Line

Finally, you must remember that you are not alone in this journey. Thousands of people across the globe are striving to overcome their alcohol cravings.

The journey is not the same for everybody, and it might take some time to fully understand what might help stop the cravings in your case.

While it might be easier to give up alcohol if you understand the cues early on, more serious cases require expert intervention.

We try to give you a basic idea about how to stop alcohol cravings to help you better understand the available options. Do tell us your thoughts below and share this with your friends.

6. FAQs

Q. Can I control alcohol urges on my own, or do I require a professional’s aid?

Even though some people can control their alcohol cravings on their own, getting professional aid is frequently advised, especially for those who have strong cravings or alcohol dependence. Individualized strategies and assistance can be given by professionals to improve the likelihood of a full recovery.

Q. How long do cravings last during recovery?

Specific variables, such as the extent of alcohol dependence and personal circumstances, affect how long and how intense alcohol cravings last. Cravings may be strong and frequent at first, but with time with the right care and lifestyle adjustments, they usually fade and become easier to control.

Q. What part does stress management play in reducing the desire for alcohol?

Cravings for alcohol are frequently brought on by stress. Effective stress reduction methods, including yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises, can help stop cravings from intensifying. The likelihood of using alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress is decreased by learning healthier coping mechanisms.

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  2. Livingston, Gill, et al. “Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission.” The Lancet 396.10248 (2020): 413-446. ↩︎
  3. Pihkala, Panu. “Anxiety and the ecological crisis: An analysis of eco-anxiety and climate anxiety.” Sustainability 12.19 (2020): 7836. ↩︎
  4. Elbay, Rümeysa Yeni, et al. “Depression, anxiety, stress levels of physicians and associated factors in Covid-19 pandemics.” Psychiatry research 290 (2020): 113130. ↩︎
  5. Trivedi, Madhukar H., et al. “Bupropion and naltrexone in methamphetamine use disorder.” New England Journal of Medicine 384.2 (2021): 140-153. ↩︎
  6. Wang, Shao-Cheng, et al. “Alcohol addiction, gut microbiota, and alcoholism treatment: A review.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.17 (2020): 6413. ↩︎

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