Detoxing from drug or alcohol use is a big step in getting clean and entering the recovery process. During detox, individuals experience strong addiction cravings that may be present in varying degrees of intensity throughout the following weeks, months, and possibly years. It’s vital for people in recovery to understand what they can expect during withdrawal and to learn how they can deal with cravings in a healthy way in order to avoid relapse.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as five hours from your last drink and can last up to a few days. Symptoms usually peak around 24-72 hours into detox. There are a few different levels of withdrawal depending on how many drinks your body is used to receiving per day. Those with milder symptoms typically experience anxiety, while more severe symptoms include hallucinations.
During this timeframe, a main symptom includes hyper-sensitivity since your senses are no longer being obscured by using alcohol. The discomfort of hyper-sensitivity can trigger strong alcohol cravings among those in early recovery.
Methamphetamines or meth, has a more intense withdrawal timeline than alcohol. Symptoms typically start 24 hours after using, and will peak during the next 7-10 days. Common symptoms of withdrawal include fatigue, depression, mood swings, and intense cravings. Withdrawal symptoms typically ease within 1-3 months, however, many people in recovery still experience periodic cravings after 3 months.
Withdrawing from opioids is different depending on the type of drug used. Withdrawal is connected to the half-life of the drug. Individuals addicted to methadone will typical experience symptoms anywhere from 15-60 hours after last use. Heroin, on the other hand, has a shorter half-life so withdrawal symptoms can start 8-16 hours after a person’s last use.
Since the opioid category includes a number of different drugs, it’s difficult to have an average “peak” in symptoms. However, opioid cravings are typically most intense during the first week of detox.
During and after withdrawal, those in recovery experience strong cravings. Through the first few weeks, cravings will be intense but will then gradually lessen in the following weeks. These cravings are not limited to a person’s drug or alcohol of choice. It may surprise you to learn that recovering addicts often crave sweets and processed foods.
Foods such as sugary cereals, microwave pizzas, and ice cream spike insulin levels just as drugs and alcohol would. This provides a euphoric sensation in the pleasure centers of the brain. Many believe that succumbing to these sugar cravings is better than satisfying your cravings for drugs or alcohol. But this is not a healthy way to deal with cravings, because it simply replaces one addiction with another, putting you at a much higher risk of relapse.
How to Cope with Addiction Cravings
It may be challenging to handle cravings when you’re recovering from addiction, especially during the early stages, but it’s not impossible. Below are some tips to help you cope with addiction cravings.
- Go for a walk: Walking is not only a physical release, but also a mental and emotional one.
- Meditate: Take time to reflect on the progress you made since entering into recovery.
- Practice a craft or hobby: Whether you sing, paint, or play a sport, do what brings you joy and relaxation.
- Try something new: Focusing your energy on learning a new skill can help keep your mind off addiction cravings.
- Talk to a friend or family member: When faced with an intense craving for drugs or alcohol, try calling a close friend or family member to talk about what you’re experiencing, so they can help keep you accountable for your sobriety.
- Eat natural whole foods: Give your body the fuel it needs to recover from the nutritional deficiencies caused by substance abuse.
- Stick to an eating schedule: Developing a meal routine adds structure to your life while giving you something to look forward to throughout the day.
If you are ready to break the cycle of addiction and want to know more about withdrawal timelines and/or managing your cravings, The Shores Treatment and Recovery is here to help. We offer supervised medical detox services that make it possible for clients struggling with drug or alcohol addiction to detox safely and much more comfortably than in the days of the “cold turkey” method.
Give us a call to learn how we can help you or a loved one get clean and maintain long-term sobriety.