The First Factor of Drug Addiction
Cravings are surely the diabolical curse of addiction. If there were no cravings to torment an addict when he or she tries to come off the addictive substance that was abused, many more people would be able to get clean after being addicted.
If cravings did not crop up weeks, months or even years later, many more people would have succeeded at long-term sobriety. The reduction or elimination of cravings would be a magnificent gift to any person who wishes to stay off street drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants or other substances.
If you have never been addicted, it might be difficult to understand addictive cravings. To get an idea of what they are like, imagine that you have gone a very long time without eating. You’re extremely hungry, even faint and weak. The hunger has really been going on way too long and you can’t focus on anything else.
When you’re that hungry, very often all you can do is think about your favorite foods. You might even be able to smell and taste that succulent burger or steak, or the sharp, fresh taste of berries blended with sweet whipped cream.
If you get hungry enough, nothing could stop you from running to get food, if it were available. As soon as you consumed that wonderful food you’d been thinking about so passionately, you’d feel completely satisfied.
A drug craving is somewhat similar, but the craving for an addictive substance is sharper, stronger and much more intense. An addicted person experiencing drug cravings will feel like life itself is dependent on getting and consuming whatever substance is causing those cravings. They will feel justified in saying or doing whatever it takes to feel that satisfaction and relief. But that relief will only last until that drug starts to wear off, which might just be a few hours or might be a day.
Physical Aspects that Can Cause Cravings
When addictive drugs are consumed, they bypass the normal functions of the body that would generate signals of pleasure after activities like sex, eating or other pleasurable actions. The chemicals in the drug trick the body into feeling pleasure - thus the euphoria and sense of well-being a person can get when they are high.
When a person has become addicted to drugs, the body gives over the production of certain hormones to the drugs and stops producing them itself. Thus a person can feel terrible when they stop using drugs - their bodies don’t immediately start producing these hormones again. The addicted person may crave drugs to make this feeling go away.
But there is another, far more significant and long-lasting cause of cravings.
Anything consumed by a person is broken down by the body so that the nutrients in the substance can be used or so that any toxins in the substance can be safely eliminated from the body. As drugs flow through the bloodstream and are filtered through the liver and other organs, these addictive chemicals are broken down and some are eliminated through urine, feces or sweat. These remnants of drugs are referred to as metabolites. This is what drug tests are looking for: what metabolites are left in a person’s body after they consumed cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol, OxyContin, etc.
Since drugs have an affinity for fats, some of the metabolites get lodged in fatty tissues of the body and don’t get eliminated. Even thin people have some fatty tissue which may serve as cushioning between organs. These metabolites can and do stay in the body for years.
When a person experiences an intense emotion as in a fight or argument or goes through a highly stressful physical activity, these metabolites can be released into the bloodstream. It has been found that at these times, it is very common for a person to crave drugs.
Some rehabilitation programs tell you to handle these moments by calling for someone to support you. Others may have you practice how you will deal with these strong cravings when they hit. Or the cravings can be medicated away by substituting another drug such as an opioid or a benzodiazepine so the cravings won’t be felt so strongly.
A thorough recovery from drugs that leaves a person free from cravings would enable a person to live a drug-free life with much less effort. He would be free to create a future without needing to constantly guard against daily cravings. She would not need constant supervision to be sure she could stay sober. It’s a better kind of recovery and is the one offered at a Narconon drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
Series of articles explaining drug addiction
- Part 1: Factors of Drug Addiction
- Part 3: How to Overcome Drug Cravings
- Part 4: Depression, The Second Factor of Drug Addiction
- Part 5: Handling Depression Without Drugs
- Part 6: Guilt, The Third Factor of Drug Addiction
- Part 7: How to Relieve Guilt