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During heroin detox, you will likely be given methadone or buprenorphine to fight withdrawal symptoms. Both of these medications also combat cravings because they attach to opiate receptors and give your brain and body the impression that you are receiving the heroin that it wants. As you continue treatment, your rehab facility may choose for you to continue taking one of these medication as a part of long-term medication-assisted treatment. In this case, your recovery will largely have the physical cravings curbed.
However, medications don’t address psychological cravings and people without medication have to counter both the psychological and the physical. Unfortunately, cravings often cause people to backslide into heroin use once more. Therefore, it is vital that you go into recovery with some strategies in place for fighting cravings. You will learn some methods for coping in professional rehab, but reviewing those or learning a few new ones couldn’t hurt.
Have a Snack
When you get an urgent, severe craving, eating a little is unlikely to fight back your need for heroin. However, as you become attuned to your cravings in drug addiction treatment, you will learn to recognize the early warning signs of cravings and this can give you enough time to fight off mild cravings with some stress-fighting foods. The following foods contain important vitamins and minerals that reduce stress, which is a major trigger for most heroin users:
- Asparagus: high in folate
- Avocados: high in folate, vitamin E, lutein, and B vitamins
- Berries: high in vitamin C
- Cashews: high in zinc
- Chamomile tea: proven calming through evidence-based research
- Chocolate: high in antioxidants and proven to decrease depression
- Garlic: high in antioxidants
- Green tea: high in an amino acid called theanine
- Oatmeal: causes your brain to make serotonin, a natural feel-good chemical
- Oranges: high in vitamin C
- Walnuts: high in omega-3 fatty acids and other polyphenols
Be warned that “stress is an important factor in the development of addiction and addiction relapse,” so be careful that you don’t substitute food addiction for heroin addiction. Make nutritious choices and moderate the amount that you eat.
During active heroin addiction, you isolated and you pushed your friends away. In recovery, you need to rebuild those friendships (if they are healthy and good for sobriety) and make some new ones.
When you feel a craving coming on, pick up the phone and call someone who cares about you. Speaking with someone invested in the success of your recovery helps you to remember your commitment to yourself as well. Just hearing the love come from the person on the other end of the call can be the motivation your need to fight your urges.
If it helps to speak with someone who truly understands heroin cravings, begin attending a 12-step group and make some new friends. These people can lend an understanding ear. But, if they are early in their recovery, taking about cravings could lead both of you to relapse. It’s better to get a sponsor and reach out to that person.
When a craving starts to hit, any sort of physical activity can help you push through it. According to The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, exercising moderately for 30 minutes three days a week is enough to produce the following health benefits:
- Stress relief
- Better sleep
- Weight loss
- Increased endurance
- Improves interest in sex
- Mood improvement
- Greater stamina and energy
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Reduced cholesterol
- Increased mental alertness due to reduced fatigue
In the immediate, the improvement in mood and the stress relief can enable you to fight the cravings. And, the other long-term benefits lead to better health, which can reduce cravings triggered by physical exhaustion and strain.