FIVE THINGS TO DO ABOUT CRAVING
When you have an episode of craving:
- 1. Try to view the craving in a matter-of-fact way. Having a craving does not mean that you are
unmotivated - or that you are doomed to relapse.
- 2. Learning about your craving triggers, and how to manage them, will be an important part of your
recovery in addiction.
- 3. Try anti-craving behavioral strategies, such as the 5-minute contract (making a contract with yourself
not to act on the desire for the next five minutes, and then engaging in a distracting activity in the
meantime.) Many urges are short-lived - you will find they are weaker if you can "surf through" the
first few minutes.
- 4. Call upon the guidance of a trained treatment professional may be needed for successfully
implementing any of a number of well-described behavioral techniques that can be helpful in
managing cravings. Treatment manuals detail these strategies.
- 5. Consider an anti-craving medication. Craving can erupt quickly and feel overwhelming, making it
difficult to put to use behavioral anti-craving strategies, even well-learned ones.
medication may give you a better chance to use the tools you have learned. Some FDA-approved
medications for alcohol and heroin addiction may have a beneficial effect on cue-triggered craving;
medications for cue-induced cigarette craving and cue-induced cocaine/methamphetamine craving
are the focus of many ongoing research studies. Several medications are already under study or in
the research phase which may work for more than one type of craving, offering "one-stop-shopping."
Anna Rose Childress, Ph.D., is a research associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She directs the Brain-Behavioral Vulnerabilities Division at
the Center for the Study of Addictions, where she has conducted federally-funded research projects for
more than two decades. Dr. Childress tests potential new medications with potential impact on both
substance and non-substance addictions. Her addiction research has focused on the motivation for drug
use/relapse, with an emphasis on understanding and treating the profound craving states elicited by
heroin, cocaine and nicotine drug cues. Her early work characterized the subjective and physiological
responses to drug cues, developing behavioral anticraving strategies.